Seasonal suicide is much discussed this time of year. But unless you're an 85-year-old geezer, the numbers say you won't entertain such scary thoughts. But you most definitely will lose your patience, composure, and mind.
On the off chance you hit a wall, steal Granny's Rascal, and attempt to drive it into oncoming traffic during this massive holiday pressure cooker, we've whipped up 58 tips that not only guarantee you'll keep your waistline, schedule, temper, and sanity in check, but will also help you thrive along the way.
58 - Preplan for pain.
Before drinking, down some acidophilus (it's in yogurt and in supplements from health-food stores); the bacteria speeds digestion, dissipates alcohol, and may lessen a hangover.
57 - Talk it out.
"If there is conflict, confront the person in private. Don't be mad. Be clear. Let them know what you want," says business coach Barbara Pachter. Beatings, sad to say, are frowned upon.
56 - Sneak attack.
Some problems can be prevented before they start. To keep Uncle Maurice sober and sane, schedule dinner early, serve no liquor or limit it to wine. Or have this year's holiday dinner at a restaurantÂ where you can exit at any moment.
55 - Deputize a store employee.
"Grab a salesperson and tell him what you need," says the National Retail Federation's Daniel Butler. "That way, you get free advice and don't waste your time."
54 - Shut it out.
Bose's newest block-out-the-noise headset, the QuietComfort 2, comes with an airplane adaptor plug and folds flat for easy travel. Pop 'em on and acquaint yourself with the sound of silenceÂor the sounds on your MP3 player ($299; bose.com).
53 - Take tea.
After 2 p.m., instead of drinking caffeine-laden jolts of cappuccino or coffee, sip non-caffeinated tea with a calming herb such as valerian root.
52 - Try the Jabra BT200 wireless cell-phone headset.
This feather-light, .8-oz headset hangs behind the ear to help make sure you won't crash as you ride, skate, drive your car, or operate heavy machinery (from $100; jabra.com).
51 - Size her up.
Like most men, you probably have no idea what sizes she wears, so check out her wardrobe before buying her the latest fashions from Paris and Milan. Oh, and make sure you err on the small side; it's called flattery. And motivation.
50 - Remember the kneady.
Most major airports sport at least one full- service spa or massage center these days. Be a wise traveler: Get a tension-easing chair massage while you wait for that delayed flight (average rate: $25 for 30 minutes).
49 - Let 'em buy their own.
Check out electronic gift cards from major credit-card companies and retailers. If your mom loves TargetÂand whose doesn'tÂ get her a Target gift card. She'll probably use it to buy stuff for you.
48 - Step up to the plate.
Not that one. The Power Plate. Actually, you stand on it. At 30Â50 vibrations per second, the ingenious Power Plate stimulates your muscle fibers, preventing inactivity-caused detraining while also calming your nerves. Sure, you'll take a hit in the old walletÂit's almost 10KÂbut c'mon: Your health doesn't have a price tag ($9,995; powerplateusa.com).
47 - Follow the leaders.
Notice what the leaders of your company are doing and not doing at parties. Mirror their behavior as those big shots float around the room. Notice what they talk about, how they are dressed, and learn to imitate their style.
46 - Go straight to the gate.
Web check-in is de rigueur at a handful of airlines, including Continental, Northwest, United, AirTran, and US Airways. Buy an e-ticket, and you can check in from your home or office computer up to 30 hours before takeoff. Print your boarding pass, check your bags curbside, and head straight to the bar.
[pagebreak] 45 - Try the free two-week guest club membership at Bally.
Now when you spend Xmas at Aunt Stinky's in Atlanta, you don't have to worry about not staying in shape, or in her doily-infested crap hole (ballyfitness.com).
44 - Treat your friend.
Make sure to include your very best friend or friends on your gift-buying list. Guys are often pleasantly surprised to get a present from one of their male friends.
43 - Mix your booze.
Have a glass of water for every glass of alcohol or eggnog you suck down. The agua fills you up and stops friends from offering to get you yet another drink.
42 - Switch to wine.
Go grape for its modest calorie count of 125 per glass and artery-protecting polyphenols.
41 - You be the chef.
Appoint yourself the cook for the event and make it more healthy without resorting to Tofurky. Smear a capsule of vitamin-E gel, a free-radical scavenger, over the basting turkey to break up carcinogens. If stir-frying, use a 50/50 oil-water mix instead of 100% oil to cut calories, lower temperature, and slow trans-fat development.
40 - Go deep. And dark.
A good after-dinner snack is dark chocolate. Since recent studies showed it's high in antioxidants and may lower blood pressure, people have been gobbling it up like, um, candy.
39 - Shop late-night.
Maximize your time once you get going by avoiding crowds. Shop 24-hour stores such as Home DepotÂpower drills for everyone!
38 - Try the Swimman Underwater MP3 player.
Stay in the holiday spirit by doing the backstroke to Bing Crosby's heartwarming rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas" ($249; swimman.com; 800-794-6626).
37 - Take it on the road.
If there are no fitness facilities at granny's crib (that rec room in her basement doesn't qualify), take a Jam Gym (6-oz. straps that attach to doors for rowing and presses) or a self-inflating basketball.
36 - Tell it like it is.
Deal with the party hosts in the same way you deal with your houseguests: honestly and in advance. Prioritize your parties and let the hosts know how long you intend to stay. That way, if you stay for only 30 minutes, they won't have to spend the time and money making dinner for you.
35 - Go your own way.
"The best way to cut stress is to blow off the holidays and go traveling," says Bruce Northam, author of Globetrotter Dogma. (See "Forget the Family," page 44.) Instead, travel to a locale that doesn't usually celebrate the holiday. They're the least crowded.
34 - Walk it off.
Take a 20-minute post-meal walk, says Carl Foster, Ph.D., of the Human Performance Research Lab at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. "A one-mile Âdine and dash' reduces the flood of glucose and insulin in the bloodstream by 20%, burning up to 100 calories."
33 - Make a trip out of it.
Even if you're traveling to see relatives, get a hotel with excerise facilities and take a few extra days to rest, unwind, and work out.
32 - Fly right.
Thanksgiving and Christmas Day are actually good travel days, believe it or not, but New Year's Day is not. Best trick: Travel the weekend before Christmas, since most people work the beginning of the week before Christmas, then fly to their holiday destination.
31 - Leave from the burbs.
When you fly from smaller airports, shorter and faster security lines could mean you don't have to arrive as early. Example: Exchange nightmarish Los Angeles International Airport for nearby Ontario, Long Beach, or Orange County.
30 - Package it.
If you must go last-second, check for "bundled" dealsÂflight, car rental, and hotel. They're often available late and can be surprisingly low-priced, considering how desperate you are.
[pagebreak] 29 - Try the Hypnoskates.
Stealthily slip out the door, slip on the wheels, and loop around the park. These are the world's slickest-looking "convertible" inline skates, with removable wheel frames and walkable boots ($200; 866-289-4976; hypnoskates.com).
28 - Get into the sunlight.
Even a relatively mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (mood changes caused by a lack of sun exposure) can make you feel stressed-out and lethargic. Getting some sun early in the day will help to reset your body clock, and it may even raise your testosterone levels.
27 - Take the Slingshot Folding Bike along for the ride.
Bring your own bike for the holiday and avoid baggage charges. It checks as regular luggage (mountain or road, from $1,700; slingshotbikes.com).
26 - Eat to fill.
To keep from overeating, go low-carb, suggests nutritionist Betty Kamen, Ph.D. "Eat two hard-boiled eggs 30 to 60 minutes before the party; they fill you up," she says.
25 - Swap cash registers.
You can usually pay for an item in another department, so go where the lines are shortest, like, say, the garden department.
24 - Don't get sick.
Plan your schedule so you don't end up spending the season overworking. The combination of a stress-weakened immune system and virus-ridden co-workers can put you next in line for the office flu.
23 - CommunicateÂa lot.
Your wife's or girlfriend's mood may have nothing to do with you. Women have high expectations at the holidays.
22 - Give it a rest.
If you're stuck in the back of the plane (train, automobile, etc.), Eagle Creek's fleece-covered inflatable neck pillow (that inflates with two puffs) is your key to stealing zzz's ($15; eaglecreek.com).
21 - Try the GyroFlex.
This palm-size covered exercise ball is powered by hand movements that help the ball reach 9,000 rpm with a gyroscopic effect. As your arm goes to work, your mind is flooded with endorphins ($10; gyroflex.biz).
20 - Get your just desserts.
Just because you're having dessert doesn't mean you need to pick the worst one. Pumpkin pie, at 250 calories per slice, beats pecan pie or cheesecake, both at 540 calories per.
19 - Manhandle the net.
If a store has the same goods on its Web site, you can hunt online and sometimes pick up the item at a checkout counter.
18 - Beef up your midnight snack.
It's better to eat lean meat than fruit. Late at night, sugars inhibit the body's production of muscle-maintaining growth hormone.
17 - Wear orange.
It's the color of cheerfulness. Studies show that orangeÂthe hue of sunsets and windswept fieldsÂmakes people happier.
16 - Get an upgrade.
Ask for one: Dress sharp, flash a warm smile, and a harried check-in clerk just may give you a break. (A bouquet of flowers has been known to work, too.) The less-smooth can use spare frequent-flier miles: About 10,000 per leg.
15 - Try the Friday-afternoon hammer.
A quick fix for shopping pressures, the world's only hammer with a bottle opener on one side makes a great last-second gift or guy thing ($8; urban-trend.com).
14 - Lift it off.
When arguing about whose relatives you're going to visit, break for the gym. Training raises testosterone in both sexes, elevating mood.
13 - Get the best seat on the plane.
Want to get your work done? Request an emergency-aisle seat: You get the extra legroom for your laptop. The seat doesn't recline, so you'll do more reading. Need some shut-eye? Go for a window seat in the front of the cabinÂit's the quietest.
[pagebreak] 12 - Check it out.
Gate agents have a new accessory: a measuring tape. You'll be dinged for bags larger than standard and for checking more than two pieces (Delta smacks travelers with a $40- per-bag fee). Compress your clothes in American Tourister's Space-Saver bags. They vacuum-pack your duds, squeezing out all the air to make more room in your bag.
11 - Skip security snafus.
Take a gift-wrapped present through security, and you may end up watching some cranky guard tear it apart instead of Grandpa. If you can't pack it with your checked luggage (and unless you pack like a chick, you can), send it via the Virtual Bellhop (virtualbellhop.com).
10 - Try the, er, puppy.
It's a fact: Blood pressure drops when you pet a dog. And the ladies love 'em. So suck it up and buy a puppy. Doesn't have to be a lapdog; any old mutt will do.
09 - Be yourself.
You don't have to be any happier than you are, or funnier, or more dynamic, or quieter. You'll end up looking fake. And miserable.
08 - Try the Brigger Flip-Flop recliner chair.
It features a zero-gravity position that soothes aches and pains, an adjustable lower-back support, and pull-out leg rests (from $839; kleindesign.com).
07 - Set your intentions.
Think about what you want to have happen and what you want to experience.
06 - Take it with you.
Layovers suckÂexcept when Moe, Larry, and those wrestler chicks from Old School keep you company. For $12 a day, rent a portable DVD player with a rechargeable battery from one of InMotion Pictures' 20 airport kiosks. (Find a list of airports at inmotionpictures.com.) One DVD per day is included; extra movies are $4 apiece. Your airport not on the list? They'll send you the player and the movies, but the shipping's on you.
05 - Keep away from toxic people.
Co-workers who love to talk about what's not rightÂall the problems, their complaints, and what isn't workingÂare toxic to you. They create more stress and can quickly suck you right into their game and take all the calm from you.
04 - Stay focused.
Start thinking more about what's right with your co-workers, your boss, your job, your company.
03 - Buy her the Mizuno "Stress-Reducing" swimwear.
OK, it's a stretch, but the Japanese sportswear firm announced that it had developed a line of women's swimwear that releases stress-reducing negative ions through natural mineral ores weaved into the fibers. And if she's not stressed, then you're not stressed ($85Â$100; mizuno.com).
02 - When mealtime rolls around, think small.
Use small plates, small portions, and small talk. "You'll naturally fill your plate, no matter the size," says Dr. John La Puma. Then sit down to eat. If you graze, you'll just keep popping in cheese cubes. Sitting down forces you to actually talk to people, and you can't talk and eat at once.
01 - Get a massage.*
There is nothing more relaxing than a set of well-oiled fingers working their magic. Anyone who says otherwise is just stressing us out. Treat yourself to a full-body blast, or better yet, as the holidays are all about giving and receiving, take turns trying this on the ladies. Then unwrap a smile.
What it is: This is the mother of Western massageÂmost U.S. practitioners are trained in its techniques of soft-tissue manipulations. You'll be kneaded, tapped, and stroked, and your joints will be taken through active and passive movements.
What it does for you: It's a gentle form of massage, aiming for relaxation and improved circulation. Yeah, circulation.