Are you feeling like you need to de-stress for the holidays? Are you feeling more like Scrooge than St. Nick these days? You’re not alone.

Gift shopping, tight budgets, busy schedules, family visits … the winter holidays can feel more like a marathon than a celebration, and leave you just as exhausted. It’s no secret that people often find themselves stressed out and depressed at Christmastime.

Fortunately there are some ways to de-stress for the holidays and escape the worst of the frustrations.

Read on for some tips to help you avoid over-extending yourself this December.

De-Stress for the holidays by learning to say no.

This is easier said than done for most of us. It is important to remember, however, that you don’t have to show up at every party, cookie exchange, or kids’ Christmas pageant that you are invited to. The more events you unwillingly attend, the more you set yourself up for resentment. It’s not selfish to say no once in a while. So prioritize your time, choose the events most important to you, and leave time in your schedule for yourself.

De-Stress for the holidays by letting the sun shine in.

Lack of sun can make life difficult in more ways than one during the holidays; it disrupts the sleep cycle and hormone production, can contribute to depression and is a primary cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), for one. Additionally, sunshine is the best way to increase levels of vitamin D in your body, a substance linked to strong immune systems and emotional well-being.

Fortunately vitamin D is also available in supplement form, as well as in fish oil, egg yolks, and fortified dairy and grain products. For those who are more seriously affected by a lack of sunlight, light therapy is a good solution. This type of treatment has been proven to increase energy and reduce stress levels in people with SAD.

De-Stress for the holidays by lowering your expectations.

You’re probably not going to have a perfectly decorated house that looks as if Martha Stewart took over tree-trimming duties. You don’t need to have five kinds of pie with handmade pie crust for your holiday dinner, and your kids will definitely roll their eyes at matching reindeer sweaters. If your household is more “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” than “Christmas in Connecticut,” it’s ok.

It can be hard to let go of dreams of the perfect holiday gathering, but your family and your blood pressure will both thank you. One way to start is to identify what you’ve found disappointing about past Christmases. Concentrate on the things you can change, and let go of the things you can’t. Try to accept and even celebrate what makes your family special and unique, instead of bemoaning their lack of resemblance to sitcom television families of yore.

De-Stress for the holidays by setting realistic goals.

Once you’ve dealt with your expectations, coming up with some realistic goals will help you de-stress this holiday. That includes sticking to  a budget – overspending is one of the biggest causes of holiday stress and anxiety. Make lists, prioritize both your gift list and your schedule, and make decisions about what is most important for you to accomplish this holiday season. Then do your best to stick to your goals — but don’t beat yourself up if you slip up now and then. Nobody’s perfect.

De-Stress for the holidays by not overindulging.

Food and drink is usually plentiful around the holidays. Someone’s always bringing cookies into work, there’s an open bar at the office holiday party, and Aunt Martha’s rum punch is strong. Treats are fine in moderation, but overeating — or overdoing it on the drinks — is a good way to make yourself feel really awful, really quickly. Too much junk food and alcohol can have both physical and emotional ramifications. Alcohol is a depressant, remember.

Late nights are also common, so don’t forget that plenty of rest is as important around this time as it is the rest of the year. Don’t overbook yourself into exhaustion.

De-Stress for the holidays by having some fun! 

There are plenty of low-cost or free holiday activities that require very little planning or preparation. Take a drive to look at Christmas lights in the neighborhood, window shop, make hot chocolate, build a snowman, make a gingerbread house using one of those pre-made kits that require no baking skill whatsoever.

Whether you’re feeling over-booked or not busy enough, taking a break to do something you want to do, spend some time with company you enjoy, and soak in some of that peace and goodwill that’s supposed to be all around this time of year.  

Take some time to de-stress for the holidays and you’ll be glad you did.