What happened to the December slowdown? Not-so-distant Decembers seemed to be a time of shorter days, less meetings and fewer deadlines. This year, however, Q4 is full speed ahead! 

For ACI, the year-end rush is predicated on business growth as well as continual product and technological innovation. All great news, but that slightly slower period, which had proven useful in braving the holiday season, has disappeared. Add in the countless parties, school performances and holiday preparation, and the holiday spirit is easy to lose in the hustle and bustle of the season.

Also see: "Rising Star nominations now open."

To help keep stress at bay and make the most of holiday family time, here are some all-time favorite #holidayhacks: 

1) Gift giving spreadsheet. This is my salvation and has been for years. I keep a spreadsheet for all of the gifts I need to purchase and include fields like purchased, wrapped, shipped and more to give myself a big picture of the remaining tasks and stick to my list when shopping. Click here for a great article on why you should use a gift spreadsheet (and a free template).

2) Be present. At work, maintain check-ins with work teams. I typically eliminate some of the larger meetings, especially when people start to take vacation, and center communication on quick “stand-up” meetings to get status updates and make sure the team is on course. At home, schedule down-time. I love to gather all of my favorite holiday movies and schedule nights to stay in, drink hot cocoa and enjoy each other’s company. Practice being present in every moment with this recent blog from MarriageRoots.

3) Say no. Skip some events. Do not feel obligated to attend every single party. Limit the number of events during the week and on the weekend. I only attend two holiday events per week and one during the weekend. Feeling obligated to attend client and social events? Remember that overbooking often leads to increased stress (and waistline)! Learning to say no is so important, even the health experts at WebMD weighed in with this column on the subject.

4) Stay healthy. There is nothing worse than getting sick in the busiest time of the year. One year I ran myself into the ground trying to “do it all.” Instead, I ended up doing nothing for about four days. Try and fend off illness with preventive tactics like good nutrition, enough sleep, supplements and cleanliness. ACI's CORE Wellness program recently provided five easy tips to maintain healthy, "mindful eating" during the holidays in this new video.

5) Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses. I will never be the mom who has the Elf on the Shelf in a spectacular winter scene on Facebook each morning. In the face of everyone’s “perfect” social media exteriors, don’t be afraid to keep it real. I often have to buy store-prepared items for the potluck and keep a backup supply of gift cards in my purse for the inevitable present “fail.” Real Simple agrees: Check out their recent article on how comparing lives on Facebook can take a toll on your state of mind.

Krehbiel is the president of ACI Specialty Benefits.

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