Advertisements and songs promoting the holiday season as “the most wonderful time of the year” sometimes brings out The Grinch in us. On top of our already busy schedules, we start to feel the pressure to find the perfect gifts and host the perfect gatherings. It is important to stop and examine the stress the holidays can cause us. Below are some tips on how to handle stress and get through the holiday season with out a fuss.

1. Why do you think people get stressed or overwhelmed during the holidays?

Too many commercials and advertisements often trick people into thinking that they have to find that perfect gift or provide a holiday spread that is beyond their budget. The key this season is to set realistic expectations. Spending hours shopping in the mall with a toddler is a recipe for chaos. Your kids and family don’t need yet another pricey electronic device. Spending time with loved ones instead of shopping for that unrealistic gift might be a better choice. Strengthening social bonds with family and friends is another way of decreasing stress. Keepsake photo gifts might be a more heartfelt option, which you can spend time making as a family.

2. How can these stressors be addressed during the holiday season?

The stress of the holiday season often makes us turn to ineffective strategies to manage stress such as: smoking, binge eating and drinking. These behaviors in turn deteriorate our health and make us feel even worse. Instead, you should turn to activities that have been shown to improve both our health and our mood. Exercise, yoga, mindfulness meditation and getting enough sleep offer great – and quick – fixes to holiday stress. Adding these activities to your daily routine now instead of in the new year will make your holidays more enjoyable. Take time to take care of yourself in order to be a more pleasant person around others. This is likely one of the greatest gifts you can give to both yourself and others.

3. If you are feeling overwhelmed, what should you do? Call your doctor?

If you’ve already tried some of the activities from above and your stress is still too much to handle, speak to your primary care physician. He or she can refer you to a psychologist or another licensed mental health professional who can help you identify the situations or behaviors that can be contributing to your chronic stress. Developing a plan to tackle the maladaptive behaviors and replacing them with more effective strategies might be the best thing you can do for your health during the holidays and for the upcoming year.

Dr. Ivan Carreras is an Internal Medicine physician located in Hialeah. Dr. Giselle Sanchez, a licensed psychologist, works alongside Dr. Carreras at Carreras Medical Center where they strive to provide the utmost care to their patients by attending to both the mind and body. To learn more about Dr. Carreras, click here.