The holiday season is right around the corner and, for many of us, that means heightened stress levels. Errands, chores, travel, family tension, and paying for gifts can all contribute to our stress and anxiety. But have no fear! Try these tips to have a calmer and merrier holiday season.

Lower your expectations

This seems a bit grim, but many of us want the holidays to be perfect.  Perfect food, perfect decorations, perfect family togetherness. But this expectation puts a lot of pressure on yourself and your family, and often leads to exhaustion and conflict. Try to take a step back and be realistic. Get rid of the “have-tos” and the “should dos.” Being flexible and focusing on what really matters will drastically lower your stress.

Schedule self-care

It’s essential that you protect your energy during the holidays.  Don’t be a martyr — if you hate baking, buy a pie instead of making one. If you need space, make a hotel reservation for your family rather than having them stay at your home. It’s also important to set aside time to decompress.  How you practice self-care is very personal and may take trial and error to identify a few practices or activities that make you feel calmer, happier, and healthier. But it’s worth the experimentation. Once you find something that works for you, schedule time to do it just like you would a doctor’s appointment.

Give to others

One of the best ways to feel less stressed and more grateful is to give to others through small acts of kindness. Volunteer, donate, or participate in a community event. Even small gestures, like holding the door for a stranger, has the potential to reduce stress and increase feelings of positivity.

While a stress-free holiday may be unlikely, by lowering your expectations, scheduling self-care, and giving to others, you can have a more peaceful and joyful winter season.