With Christmas just around the corner, kids eagerly anticipate two weeks vacation and the arrival of jolly old Saint Nick. The little ones are filled with hope and joy. But for many of us, the thought of Christmas brings stress, angst, and despair. For some it is the excessive commercialization of Christmas, with the focus on gifts. Some people dread Christmas because of expectations for social gatherings with family, friends, and acquaintances with whom they don’t want to spend time. Others have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs.

But with some practical tips, we can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays and make it through to the New Year:

 Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you cannot be with loved ones, realize that it is normal to feel sadness and grief.

Be realistic. The holidays do not have to be perfect or just like last year.

Stick to a budget. Do not try to buy happiness with gifts.

Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. You do not have to attend every event. And if you do attend, set a home time; you do not have to be the last to leave.

Do not abandon healthy habits. Do not let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence in food and alcohol only worsen guilt and poor health. Make sleep and exercise priorities.

Take your medication regularly. Skipping or stopping medications can have profound consequences which can affect your mental and physical health.

Take a breather. Instead of rushing home from work and heading to the in-laws, take a half-hour break to unwind.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these persist, you need to get help from your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Know that you are not alone. It seems like the world is happy except for you, but the feelings you have are more common than you think. Sometimes the biggest smiles hold the most pain.

While following these steps may not change your outlook completely (you need three ghosts to make that transformation), they can fuel your positive outlook and bring you some peace and joy. Try and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Take care of yourselves and each other.