A person holds a coffee mug near a fireplace.
Take a break, just for you, and remember that everything does not need to be perfect. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

It’s ironic but true that the holiday season, a time of joy on several levels, is also a time of stress for many of us.

Balancing a schedule filled with get-togethers, big meals, shopping, wrapping presents and extra activities for the kids—all while watching your budget—is not easy, and it’s perfectly natural to experience some tension.

You’re not alone.

“The holidays can be difficult,” agreed Kiran Taylor, MD, Spectrum Health Medical Group’s division chief of psychiatry and behavioral medicine. “They often trigger symptoms for the 40 million people in the United States who suffer from anxiety or depression each year. It’s an all-encompassing illness that affects your body, feelings, thoughts and behavior.”

Dr. Taylor suggests making your holidays better by:

1. Managing your expectations

Don’t expect everything (or anything!) to be perfect. It won’t be.

The gravy will have lumps. You won’t find the perfect gifts. Your family members will annoy each other.

Don’t berate yourself for not feeling happier. Instead accept yourself for you who are.

2. Simplifying everything

If your holiday rituals seem like a huge hurdle, give yourself a break.

Make this the year you skip the cards (or send e-cards), downsize holiday gift-giving, decorate less and get dinner from the local deli.

3. Just saying no

Feeling overwhelmed by a party invitation? Just skip it.

Or, if necessary, show up long enough to be polite, and then excuse yourself.

No one needs to know your plan to escape at home with a good book or Netflix.

4. Setting limits on what you’ll eat and drink

You’ll feel better (and better about yourself) if you don’t overindulge.

Aim for healthy snacks, like fresh veggies, to avoid blood sugar spikes from too many holiday treats.

Alcohol and caffeine can affect your mood and too much of either can increase your anxiety.

5. Giving yourself the gift of time

Go to the gym. Bundle up for a walk and get some fresh air. Watch a movie. Write in your journal.

Escape the hustle of the holiday and just be.

Do whatever lifts your spirits and helps you gain perspective.