The holidays can be an extremely stressful time for a lot of people. To exacerbate the stress, pile on the pandemic and all that it entails. The very thought of the two can set any of us off in a panic. But there are ways that we can regain and maintain control, and calm our anxiety – even with the looming holiday season.

I find the reminder that the holidays are supposed to a joyous time, a time of celebration, to be a calming element, but everyone finds comfort in different things. And with stress-inducing thoughts of possible crowds at holiday events or in-person holiday shopping, online shopping issues (out of stock or shipping delays), financial or food insecurities, and/or impending travel on your horizon, here are some helpful tips to regain control and alleviate some stress this holiday season.

Stay calm

Stay calm, because this too shall pass. Even though we may feel overwhelmed at times, remind yourself that this too shall pass, and you’ll get through it. Find ways that help you keep your calm, whether it be to simplify (events, dinners, presents, whatever it may be), make lists, or simply say “no.” Find what works best for you and your life.

Acknowledge your feelings

Always acknowledge your feelings. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or even sad during the holidays. Reaching out to a trusted friend or family member to voice your feelings can prove to be helpful and can help you avoid feeling lonely or isolated. Another way to help lift your spirits and expand your circle is to volunteer. Volunteering your time to help others is always a sure way to lift your spirits and it makes you feel good that you helped make a difference in the life of someone who could really use it.

Accept the things that are in and out of your control

There will always be things that you can control, just like there are things that you can’t control. Accepting this fact and being realistic can make all the difference. Likewise, remember that things don’t have to perfect and that the things in life are constantly changing – and change can be good.

I think it’s important to add, under this subject and with the way things are in today’s world, that the holidays are a great time to set aside differences and grievances. Whether those differences are political, religions, or something else, just set them aside and accept people for who they are – you may not agree, but instead just respect them, at least through the holidays.

Make a list and check it twice

I find it extremely helpful to make a list: a list for presents, a list for the grocery, a list for activities, and with it the budget. Creating these lists and their budgets can help alleviate unneeded stress, you know what to expect and are keeping yourself in control. Likewise, remind yourself that the holidays are not just about gifts and gift-giving: you can’t buy happiness. Emphasize rather the experience and creating memories.

Just say “no”

It’s OK to say “no,” not that you don’t want to say “yes,” but knowing your limits and boundaries and what is right for you, that is where you can find your strength. Taking on too much can be overwhelming and can cause unwanted stress, so just know your limits and learn to say “I’m sorry but, no” – it’s OK! Your loved ones will understand.

Stay healthy

Even though it might be hard because we tend to indulge during the holidays, try to stay healthy. Keep your routines, exercise, eat well, sleep well, don’t indulge too much in both food and drink – all of which will help you stay on top of your game and that in turn will help keep the stress levels at bay.

Take a break. Removing yourself from a situation can be extremely helpful and powerful. By so doing you’re just giving yourself that moment to take a breath and regroup.

There are countless ways to help not just fend off and alleviate stress during the holidays (and at other times), and to help with anxiety and depression, but I don’t claim to be an expert. These are only a few ways that I find to be helpful. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or depressed, the best thing is to always seek help, whether from a trusted friend or family member, or from a medical professional. I wish you a happy and stress-free holiday season!