It’s holiday time! People everywhere are getting together with friends and loved ones. There are parties to be had, gifts to exchange, and plenty of obligations. It’s this time of year when people start to feel stress. It may be financial stress, as expectations surrounding gifts and parties start to weigh on your wallet. It may be social stress, as week after week you attend holiday parties and still need to fulfill your day to day responsibilities. Your child or grandchild’s school may expect that you attend shows and bake sales. You may be feeling overwhelmed with all of the social obligations that are piling up.

What can be done to help alleviate the stress and put you back in control? For one, fight back that night owl urge. Research has shown that most Americans would be happier if they had an extra 60 to 90 minutes of sleep per night. So give yourself a holiday gift and leave that party an hour early and head for bed.

Setting boundaries is another way to feel in control and alleviate all that stress. Letting loved ones and family know what your limits are before obligations start to wear on you is a great proactive way that you can set up your season for success. That may mean trading in-person visits for a short Skype session. Instead of feeling selfish, step back and reframe it as quality over quantity. Give your full attention to that 15-minute video chat. Your family will appreciate your focus and you can do it from the comfort of your pajamas and couch!

Seek out mental health treatment or peer support. The emotions that are starting to wear on you are most likely plaguing you all year round. Holiday seasons tend to be times when the dam opens and you finally see the impact of what you have been carrying around. Instead of giving up and cooping up for the season, reach out to a mental health professional or peer support group. Think of it as a jump start on those new years resolutions!

Get Creative! Utilize art making as an outlet for all of the stress that you are experiencing. You can grab an adult coloring book, or a folded sheet of paper to make your own holiday cards. Creative expression can allow you to express emotion in a safe manner that does not ask you to translate to words. Grab a box and tear up some paper. Write down each stress that you have been experiencing on those torn sheets and create something inside of the box. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try pencils, paints and even collage materials. Focus on the act of creative expression, rather than the end product. The release of emotion in a safe space may be just what you were looking for all along.

Most of all, cut yourself some slack. No one is perfect and you can’t fulfill all of the obligations that you may be invited to. That’s ok! Being gentle on yourself is the best gift you can give.