ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Work and life can throw us many curve balls, especially as we approach the holidays and the end of the year.We feel pressure to ensure a grand celebration for our families and end the year strong.Our schedules are always pressed, money is usually tight and we can find ourselves feeling like we're being cooked alive in a pressure cooker.Stress can distract us from work and cause us to turn on the autopilot mode.It's easy to fall into running on automatic, particularly when our thoughts are elsewhere.Much like looking through a camera and then accidentally bumping the lens, life can get blurry when we lose focus and begin operating on autopilot.When distractions seep in, be wary. It's a rare picture which turns out "pretty" when the operator doesn't take time to focus. Even an automatic focus camera has trouble when events are moving too quickly.As the year draws to a close and life seems to speed up, make sure you slow down and focus on the task at hand to avoid an unsightly outcome.As with taking the time to properly focus for a great shot, take the time to evaluate the needed changes in light of all the circumstances and possibilities.Be aware of where your feet are and focus on the task at hand. If the stress of life has pushed you to distraction, take a moment and refocus before working unsafely.The last thing we want to occur as we end the year is an injury which prevents the picture-perfect Christmas.To help deal with some of life's pressures, which seem to magnify this time of year, remember some safety tips for using a pressure cooker.These same rules can be applied to handling stress at work and at home to reduce the feeling of being "cooked."1. Before cooking, check your equipment. Just as you'd never use a pressure cooker with a faulty seal or a crack, you should not attempt to face life with a body in poor condition.When not well rested or ill, the body is not adept at handling stress and injuries and illnesses often increase.Ensure you get plenty of rest, eat a well-balanced diet and exercise. All three are known to reduce the negative effects of stress on your mental and physical well-being.2. Don't overfill the cooker. As applied to the pressure cooker of life, don't overfill your day.Plan and prioritize your day, and work to the plan. But, most importantly, remember to be flexible.Have a plan "B" and remember that if it's not done today it can be done tomorrow.Take breaks and interact with coworkers. Even though there are presents to be bought and parties to attend, don't misplace your priorities.Remember what brings you the greatest joy and what the holidays really mean to you, including time together, religious observances, reflections on your life and future goals.These are the things that matter. Life really is about the journey. Savor the moments.When your children grow up they will not remember your perfectly clean house and perfect decorations. They will remember the fun and love you shared together.3. Release pressure in a safe way. Just as you must release the pressure from the cooker, you must also release some of the built up pressures of life in a safe way.To safely vent a pressure cooker, you can either remove it from the heat and let it cool or you can use the pot's steam release valve to expel steam quickly.In the same way, we can safely relieve stress by removing ourselves from the fire and resting or find an outlet to relieve the stress.This holiday season, take time to celebrate, let loose and have some fun, spend time with family and friends or get away from work by taking a day or two off.Focus on the things that matter.Avoid being on autopilot due to stress and having your life explode around you. Follow the simple safety tips above to properly handle the pressure cooker of life as we approach the end of the year.