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Holidays got you stressed out? They don't need to

Saturday - 12/17/2011, 1:11pm  ET

AP: 6147529b-0814-4e52-b6fb-580f56e31d7b
In this Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, photo, shoppers stop to look at a display while shopping at Dadeland Mall, in Miami. As reports of shopping-related violence rolled in this week from Los Angeles to New York, experts say a volatile mix of desperate retailers and cutthroat marketing has hyped the traditional post-Thanksgiving holiday sales to increasingly frenzied levels. (AP Photo/ Lynne Sladky)

WASHINGTON - It can be hard to keep up the holiday spirit while out doing last-minute holiday shopping.

For many, the holidays can mean a lot of stress.

"I think a lot of it is about setting up expectations that there is a way to be... a perfect family present, a perfect family meal, a perfect family, and none of us have that," says behavioral expert Beverly Flaxington.

She says you need to prepare in order to be ready and stress-free during the holidays.

"I'm a big advocate of planning, because the more that we can think about something in advance, the more we give ourselves the opportunity to say is that going to work?"

She adds the planning doesn't need to be a contest about buying the best gift, and holiday prep shouldn't be a chore.

She says that giving a heartfelt gift with a personal note is the best present.

"that really is moer meaningful than the beautiful new pocketbook."

WTOP's Randi Martin contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)