Fitness Diaries: Holiday season can be stressful; here's how to cope

The holiday season adds stress to everyday life. Party planning, festive events, family gatherings and crowds of shoppers multiply this time of year.

And just when it seems you have a grip on all of that, a vehicle breaks down, more work projects are assigned, a relative is admitted to the hospital and your house turns into a scene from "Hoarders." It's at that moment when you can't decide if you want to scream or cry - or both.

Stress can take a major toll on the body. According to a Mayo Clinic study, stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

So how can we get a handle on the situations that cause stress? Well, while there likely is no sure way to control the situation, you can control the way you respond to it.

Here are a few tips:

- Exercise and eat healthy: It seems to be the cure for everything, so why not do it? Adding exercise to a weekly routine will help burn off some of that stress and boost energy. Often when people are stressed, they turn to junk food, alcohol or tobacco for comfort. But this can lead down a scary path of destroying the body. Try to reach out to protein, fruits and vegetables. It will help you see better results from your workouts.

- Avoid procrastination: Don't wait until the last minute to complete projects and chores. Usually those projects take more time than you expect so you end up yelling at everyone around you while trying to get them done.

- Surround yourself with positive people: Smiling and laughing are contagious. And they're good for the soul. Being around others that have a positive outlook on life might rub off on you. Plus, negativity will only add more stress.

- Leave early: Don't be late - to work, to picking up the kids, to grocery shopping, to social functions. If time allows, try to leave a bit earlier than usual to get to your next destination. It will help you avoid stress over daily traffic and road work. And if you arrive at your destination early, use that time to relax.

- Schedule time for relaxation: Who has time to sit and take it easy these days? It might sound silly, but schedule a few hours a week for relaxation. It could be a trip to the spa or maybe some time in a quiet room with a book. If you don't want to relax alone, watch a movie with family and friends.

- Learn to say "no": Are you the go-to person? Do you find yourself doing every task that is asked of you? Adding more to your plate causes stress. So you need to evaluate your tasks and decide which ones you don't need to do. Don't be afraid to say "no" to additional tasks that are not high on your priority list.

- Ask for help and talk it out: If you're drowning in your never-ending to-do list, reach out to co-workers and family members to let them know you can't do it without teamwork. There is no reason to stress over something that can be accomplished as a group. Also, if there is an issue causing concern, talk to a loved one or a professional counselor. Talking about what's causing the stress can help ease the mind.

- Take a deep breath: Sometimes the things that bring stress are out of your control. Illness or death of a loved one can take over your life. Take a deep breath and go day by day. These are the times to make sure you are surrounded by caring people.