Today’s fast-paced life is a breeding ground for stress, and the holidays, which are just around the corner, often add an extra layer. Unlike our parents and grandparents who enjoyed simpler lifestyles, our lives are so busy we rarely have time for everyday tasks much less the luxury of time to enjoy the holiday season.

Don’t let the holiday season get you down this year. A positive mindset and preparation before the season begins will take the edge off. Here are some tips to help you.

1) Start Early: If you’re like me the stress of fighting for parking spots, standing in line and waiting for your items to be gift wrapped is way too much. So start your shopping early. And at all costs avoid malls, they merely add to the already high stress level. Buy all you can from your local merchants, and a good place to start is the local corner convenience store. You’d be surprised at what you can pick up there—key chains, flowers, batteries, laser pointers, buttons of your favorite reindeer and much more. Heck, sometimes you can get a good buy on Christmas cookies.

And just how early should you start?

Don’t wait till the 22nd or 23rd to start your shopping, I start a couple of days earlier, the 20th or the 21st.

2) Christmas Lists: Keep a Christmas list all year long of the people you generally buy for. As you pick up gifts, be sure to check their names off. And just how much should you spend? That’s simple, no more than they spent on you last year.

3) Cooking: As I mentioned earlier, try those cookies you can buy at the corner convenience store, they are cheap and colorful. Take them home, unwrap them and place on a cookie tray. Avoid purchasing sweets that are a dead give-away, like Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s. The same is true for the candies. Again, don’t tip your hand by buying gummy worms.

Ahh, one more thing, don’t even think about counting calories during the holidays. Eat all you want!

4) Christmas Cards: The key here again is avoiding stress brought on by the holidays. Rather than wasting postage on people who may not send you a card this year, wait ’til you get one from them. And here’s the wonderful thing about this method, don’t buy those expensive cards, get some white-out and send a card someone already sent you. With a little extra care you might be able to save the stamp as well.

5) Christmas Parties: Avoid them at all cost. Once people realize you come to their parties they continue to invite you year after year. Who needs that!

6) Decorating: I’m convinced that decorating for Christmas is extremely stressful. It’s only human nature to add to your Christmas decorations each year. So to save time, and stress, I leave my lights up all year long. Come summer you never notice the string of lights for the leaves. Works for me.

And when it comes to Christmas trees, remember to tippy-toe around this issue with your wife and family. Keep a positive mindset and discuss with your family the positive aspects of porcelain Christmas trees. After all, you’re not killing a tree, you’re not storing a stand, no worry about fire. It can go on most any end table and there are no pine needles to jam into the bottom of your feet when walking past it barefoot.

7) Sleep and Rest: Most often stress attacks those who don’t get enough sleep. It’s important to get as much sleep as possible during the holidays. I’ve found that after a big holiday meal a nap is refreshing and keeps me stress-free. I caution you to plan those naps carefully so as not to miss any football games you hoped to see.

So there you have it — seven tips to keep the holidays from stressing you out too much.

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