Approaching the holiday season, try to imagine it as an obstacle course — an annual game of life — that offers both challenges and rewards that can bring you both joy, happiness and gratitude or inner anxiety, stress and depression. Your challenge, if you accept it, is to study your calendar of holiday events ahead of time and then train for them, like training for a marathon.

Here are three challenges you may face this holiday season, and here’s how to plan for them.

  1. A tight budget.
  2. A bounty of holiday foods.
  3. Relationship challenges.

A tight budget. To avoid the endless shopping that comes at this time of year, think instead of the hand-crafted gifts that you can make, a favorite book or music you can give, or up-cycle an item that you never use that you know they would enjoy.

A bounty of holiday foods. Anticipate the events you will attend and the traditional holiday foods that will tempt you to overeat or over indulge, along with the offer of too many sweets or alcohol. Then use this “healthy habits” strategy to help you overcome the food challenge: (1) Don’t drink with the meal. A sip of water or wine to help with swallowing food is fine. Just saying “No” to beverages or soup at the start of a meal can help prevent digestive turbulence after the meal is over. Instead, (2) Eat protein first. Start by turning your plate so that the protein in your meal faces you and is eaten first. Then (3) Go for the most fiber rich foods next along with healthy fats such as butter, avocado, high fat cheeses, olives, and olive oil. These good fats will give you a feeling of fullness and make it easier to (4) Have one dessert, not three.

Relationship challenges. Are relationship challenges your biggest reason for stress and anxiety during the holiday season? If so, check out this fun, easy-to-use, free 1- minute evaluation tool that you can use to rate your traits and rate the traits of others. Download the instant results. This simple test helps you gain a moment of clarity about any relationship and offers conversation starters to help“bridge the gaps” between you and them at this holiday time, or any time of the year.

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Alexia Parks is CEO of  Her focus: The rise in human intelligence & innovation due to trait diversity & trait balanced leaders in business & politics.