It’s early October and already I’m starting to prepare for the holidays.  It’s time to get Halloween costumes, buy tickets for holiday shows, negotiate Thanksgiving plans and begin answering questions from the kids about how long until the big day.  If you send out a picture on your holiday card, which many of us do, it’s time to find that special one from the past year or arrange to have one taken.

It’s one of my favorite times of year.  I love the decorations and gatherings.  I love the music, special events and excitement.  But it’s also a stressful time of year.  And, according to a 2006 APA study it’s a particularly stressful time for women.

Women are more likely than men to have high levels of stress during the holiday season and they are less likely to take time for themselves and relax.  As a result, women are likely to turn to problem behaviors, like overeating or excessive drinking to manage their stress.

If this is you, or has been you in the past, then maybe this is the year to change how you manage the holidays.  As we near the holidays, there will be a slew of articles on managing holiday stress.  This year, instead of waiting until you’re swamped and drowning in it, consider building healthy habits early.

DBT teaches a variety of skills to manage stressful times.  These are are few strategies that you can begin to implement now, that will help keep you on an even keel.  Just pick one to get started on.

Exercise: Exercise during times of stress is helpful for multiple reasons.  It doesn’t matter if you’re stressed because you ran out of bows for your boxes or you’re over-scheduled.  Stress triggers a response in the body that gears the body up for action.  Exercise is a release for the pent up nervous energy from stress. You may also have heard about endorphins, chemicals released during exercise that improve mood.  It never hurts to approach the world in a better mood during times of stress.

Balance Your Eating: Obesity, heart disease and diabetes are major health problems in America today.  Rather than contribute to your own health problem, focus on keeping your eating balanced.  There are tons of strategies, from eating healthy foods before going to a party to improving your knowledge of the nutrition of the foods you’re likely to encounter.

Drink moderately: If you get swept up in parties and tend to drink too much or if you’ve found yourself drinking more to take the edge off, come up with strategies now.  How are you going to tolerate a boring and tedious party without a few drinks?  How will you relax without an extra glass of wine in the evenings?

Sleep: When demands begin to exceed the amount of time you’ve got, people often give up on sleep.  This year, pay attention to the late nights and early mornings.  Make a commitment to yourself to get enough sleep.  Losing sleep can make you irritable and short tempered.

Do something for yourself: Women do a lot of planning and preparing for everyone else around the holidays.  Plan something into every day that you enjoy doing.  Make it a priority.