In a busy time of year like the holidays, it can be easy to get stressed out by the demands on your time. Family traditions, parties, school events and travel are added to the usual routine. At the same time, work can pick up in a year-end rush. The pressure can take an unnecessary toll on the joy of the season.

There's good news, though. You can take steps to ease the pressure. Try them, even if the season isn't getting to you; you might enjoy it even more!

Start by reflecting on your priorities and consider the ways in which your current activities align with them. For example, you may identify family as a top priority in your life. If you spend more time than usual with family members over the holidays, you may conclude that it's worth the added stress. However, if you've become too busy for family time, you may want to recalibrate.

Let this lead into consideration of the good things in your life. I like to do this in a descriptive way -- it makes it easy to experience the blessings. So, instead of "I have a place to live," try "I have a comfortable home with neighbors I enjoy." Think about the people in your life, the material items, your health, pets (I have a big black dog sitting on my feet), your work. Be broad and let yourself feel happy about them. It's a little break from all of the things you need to do.

No discussion of stress management is complete without a section on self-care. We all know it, but it can be hard to do. Try to cover the simple things; drink enough water and get a few minutes of fresh air every day. Pay attention to food choices, and even if you're eating more treats than usual, keep healthy items on your menu to balance it out. Keep exercise as a priority, even if you scale it back. Don't cut sleep short -- rest builds resilience. And set aside a few minutes every day for meditation, prayer or reflection.

Still, the pressure may build up; you can either deal with it or cut back. If the latter, what can you give up? Use your priorities to take items off your list. Perhaps you bake less, shop less or decorate less. Keep the meaningful activities.

Another helpful lens is to think about ways to help others. If you can't give up baking, can you do some extra for people who can't do their own? If you're shopping, include gifts to donate for others. Moving beyond yourself can give a huge boost to your energy.

Let others help you, too. Come together with friends and family to get things done. If you want to decorate, get a crew together, and be open to others' ideas. If you feel overwhelmed and need to vent, reach out to someone. In some cases, the holidays can be very difficult; if you need professional help, don't hesitate to seek it out.

Wishing you all a serene holiday season and a beautiful end to 2012!

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at