The most wonderful time of the year is here, and with the holidays come extra responsibilities - and extra stress. There are gifts to buy, family dinners to consume, work functions to attend, and parties to plan. Even if your season is merry and bright, it's easy to start feeling stressed out and overwhelmed too.

As the holidays draw nearer and nearer, party invitations start rolling in from friends and family on all sides. You may find yourself feeling overwhelmed when it comes to planning your own soiree. You have to decide what to wear, what food and drink to serve, who to invite, what music to play, and everything else. It doesn't have to be stressful. If you plan right, you can be in control all the way.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help you plan an amazing holiday party that will impress your friends and keep your stress levels at a minimum.

The First Steps

Before you decide on any of the details, you need to get some of the logistics planning out of the way. That means choosing a date and a guest list. Keep in mind that this season is busy for everyone, so try to send out your invitations in advance. To keep your stress levels down and the party pumped, only invite people you know will have fun and maybe even contribute to party prep and cleanup!

Choosing the Perfect Party Menu

Once you've decided to throw a party and picked a date, it's time to plan the food and drinks you'll serve. Try to decide if you want to serve a full meal or just hors d'oeuvres and snacks.

Many people do their best to eat and drink healthy when possible amidst heavy holiday food, so consider offering some sugar free drink options for those watching their figures. There are plenty of cocktails and mocktails that can be made healthier by using sugar free syrup, and your guests will thank you for your consideration for their waistlines.

Try going for festive drinks that contain peppermint or mocha for an extra-fun holiday twist. Traditional holiday goodies like cookies are also sure to please your guests; bonus points if the cookies are decorated like reindeer or snowmen.

Keeping the Stress Down

Now for the ultimate party secret: how to keep your stress as a host to a minimum. While you likely won't be able to avoid it entirely, there are a few key ways you can keep yourself from losing your head completely as you plan and execute your perfect party.

In the days leading up to the bash, try to spread out the cleaning and food prep duties over a few days rather than trying to get it all done in a few hours before your guests arrive. If you can, enlist the help of a roommate, partner, or friend. Enlisting extra hands will make the preparations easier, faster, and most importantly, more fun.

During the party, don't forget that the point is to have fun. That goes for you just as much as it goes for your guests. You want to make sure your guests enjoy themselves, but don't forget to take some time to enjoy yourself just as much. Be sure to grab some food, dance a little, and have a drink or two. Or three. But maybe stay away from the wine...just trust us on this one.

Once the playlist ends and your guests depart, clean up begins. You can combat the post-party blues by cleaning as you go along with party preparations. Wash dishes as you prepare food, use disposable dishes and utensils, and see if a couple of guests are willing to hang around to help you tidy up a bit. Turn it into a little afterparty with some fun music, and you'll probably only have to beg a little bit.

And just like that, the party will be over and you can relax. Don't forget to take plenty of pictures to look back on so you can remember how it felt to throw the best holiday party ever.