Many people look forward to the holiday season and the start of a new year. It often provides an opportunity to spend quality time with family, take a few days off from work, or go on a winter getaway.

While the holiday season can be a fun and joyous time, it can also be very stressful. The combined effort of shopping, attending social events, and entertaining guests can quickly become too much to handle. A poll by the American Psychological Association shows that 8 out of 10 people anticipate increased stress over the holidays. In some cases, the increase in stress and anxiety may even lead to depression. The Mayo Clinic reports that depression is often an unwelcome guest during the holidays.

Though the holiday season can be a difficult and stressful time, there are several ways to minimize stress and anxiety so you can thoroughly enjoy this festive time of year.

Set a Spending Budget

The holiday season and spending go hand-in-hand. Between buying gifts for your children, spouse, and relatives, you can drop hundreds of dollars between Black Friday and Christmas Day. A 2015 Galllup poll reported that shoppers around the United States were planning to spend an average of $830 on gifts over the holidays.

Although spending money during the holiday season may be unavoidable, you can control how much you spend. Some of the stress you feel over the holidays may have a lot to do with financial pressure. To help prevent stress over money, plan ahead, review your finances, and come up with a realistic budget for gifts. Buying gifts shouldn’t affect your ability to pay your bills, nor should it result in costly credit card debt. 

Don’t let others pressure you into spending more than you can afford. Using a credit card is tempting, but it can also complicate matters. It might take several months or years to lower the balance. Decide on a maximum amount and stick to that budget. You can even have a discussion with friends and family and agree to only spend up to a certain amount. You can also get creative and think of gift ideas that don't involve money. A friend or family member might appreciate the gift of time better than an actual item. For example, perhaps you can offer to watch a friend’s child for a weekend so she can spend some alone time with her partner.

Get Plenty of Exercise

When you’re running around during the holiday season, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. What you may not realize, however, is that being active can elevate your mood and help you cope with stress.

Exercise and other types of physical activity stimulate the production of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are brain chemicals that function as a natural painkiller. They can trigger a positive feeling in the body, boosting mood and reducing feelings of anxiety and stress.

Understandably, you might be busy and have little time for physical activity during the holidays. However, it doesn't take much time to maintain a calm mental state. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a minimum of three times each week. Find an activity that works for you and your lifestyle. You may want to consider:

  • walking
  • jogging
  • swimming
  • biking
  • playing sports
  • aerobics

Keep It Simple

The holiday season is particularly stressful when you have too much on your plate. This might be the case if you're welcoming out-of-town guests and hosting family festivities. You don’t necessarily have to cancel your plans, but make sure you’re not setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to do everything yourself. Get your family involved and delegate. For example, instead of taking on the responsibility of preparing an entire meal alone, ask everyone to bring a dish. Or, if you feel that hosting an event at your home is too much, don't feel obligated to entertain relatives and friends. Know your limitations and learn how to say “no.”

Take Time for Yourself

Setting aside time for yourself is another great way to cope with stress during the holidays. With so much happening, you might not have a moment alone. However, it’s important to make time for yourself so you can take a breather and clear your mind. Even spending as little as 15 minutes alone might make a world of difference. Doing activities you enjoy can help you maintain your sanity as you juggle family obligations, social events, and holiday shopping. You can try going a walk, listening to relaxing music, or getting a massage to take your mind off your to-do list.

Pick Your Battles

Being in close quarters with some of your family members for long periods of time can be stressful in itself. You all have your own personalities. Because of your differences, it may be easy to rub each other the wrong way. Remember that if you let every remark get under your skin, you’ll be miserable and stressed out the entire time. Set aside your differences, and agree to disagree. This is easier said than done. But if you can learn how to let go and pick your battles, you’ll have less anxiety. Don’t let the actions of others rob you of your joy.

Even if you’re a calm and collected person, the holiday season can still be a trying time. Your stress level can still skyrocket. These practical tips may minimize your stress and anxiety, and help you cope. However, don’t be afraid to speak with a doctor or mental health professional if you’re having a difficult time. They may help you improve your coping skills so you can get through the holiday season with a smile on your face.