In theory, the holidays should be a time of joyous celebration with friends and loved ones. The truth is, this time of year can bring on (or intensify) feelings of stress, anxiety and depression for many people.

A recent Healthline survey showed 62% of respondents feel some stress around the holidays, with 18% reporting they feel very stressful. Finances were the greatest cause of stress, followed by healthy eating concerns, gift giving, and scheduling.

Beyond stress, some people may experience what is commonly referred to as the Holiday Blues. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) explains that the Holiday Blues are “temporary feelings of anxiety or depression during the holidays that can be associated with extra stress, unrealistic expectations or even memories that accompany the season.”

In order to promote good mental health this holiday season, we have put together a list of 5 ways you can be intentional about minimizing stress and the Holiday Blues:

5. Recognize the Signs and Take Action

Paying close attention to emotional or physical signs of stress, anxiety and depression can help you address holiday mental health concerns before they get out of control. Fatigue, sadness, frustration, loneliness, and isolation are some of the symptoms and feelings the National Alliance on Mental Health highlight in their What are the Holiday Blues? infographic.

Knowing the signs will enable you to combat the underlying issues quicker and more effectively. Being intentional about sticking to a healthy, balanced diet will go a long way to helping you (although we know this is easier said than done during the holidays!). Light-to-moderate exercise is another proven way to reduce stress. Meditation is a popular method of reducing stress for many.

Sometimes we overcomplicate things and have a tendency to justify our busyness during this time so being cognizant of the physical and emotional signs of stress, anxiety, and depression and taking the steps to minimize them is crucial.

Pro Tip: Read WebMD’s Tips for Managing Stress and put them into practice so you can respond to holiday stress in a healthy manner. If areas in your life seem out of control, consult a mental health professional such as a psychologist to help you deal with them.

4. Learn to Say No When You Need to

Chances are, there is no shortage of holiday party invitations coming your way these days. While this is a time of year when people gather to celebrate, make sure you don’t overcommit. Successful people have been shown to schedule free time. Physician-researcher Richard Swenson, M.D. calls it margin, or “the space between our load and our limits.”

This isn’t always easy, but sometimes it is necessary. If you find yourself becoming stressed out this holiday season, perhaps the best thing you can do is say “no” and pencil in some free time for yourself instead.

Pro Tip: Whether it be time with family or an hour of reading (whatever you consider free time), make sure you add it to your calendar along with your obligations. This will serve as a valuable reminder to rest, relax, and not overcommit.

3. Don’t Forget to Play (Yes, Even as an Adult)

It is easy to get caught up being serious in life. Let’s face it, there are countless things that demand our attention. In order to reduce stress, some experts recommend making time for fun and play as adults.

Author and speaker Margie Warrell makes the case that having fun and playing around isn’t simply for children. “Giving yourself permission to be playful, to act ‘childish’ and to engage in activities that make you smile is not only good for your health, but it can be totally cut through the relationship tensions that often build in the holiday season,” Warrell writes.

Child Development and Play Expert Kathleen Alfano makes the case that play contributes to being a well-rounded and joyful adult. “Singing and dancing for the fun of it” is one thing Alfano recommends.

Pro Tip: Psychiatrist Stuart Brown suggests reflecting on the play you enjoyed when you were younger and figure out how you can incorporate that into your life now. An example would be if you were very active in your youth, then you might consider joining a municipal sports league.

2. Travel Smarter

We get it, holiday travel can be stressful. If you’re already dealing with stress symptoms or Holiday Blues, the thought of having to leave the safety of your home and your routine may be unsettling. Katharina Star, PhD recommends that you try to focus external things and activities such as books, magazines or games rather than your stress symptoms.

If you begin to experience sudden anxiety or a panic attack, you can practice deep breathing and try to surrender to your symptoms rather than fighting them (as they will usually taper off within minutes), according to Star.

Pro Tip: If the root of your travel-related stress is based on the perceived costs and unpredictable itineraries, you have options. Consider using a resource such as GoDoTrip to create a user-friendly, customizable trip itinerary in advance. Resources such as this also allow you to compare rates and book with ease.

1. Stick to Your Budget

This might seem like a no-brainer, but the statistics show that it’s something we don’t do as a rule. A 2017 Coinstar Holiday Survey shows 77% of respondents expect to exceed their budget this season. It’s not enough to simply make a budget, you need to stick to it and avoid overspending.

While we all love receiving gifts, those who care about you certainly do not want to see you go into debt. It can be easy to justify overspending on loved ones in order to create holiday memories, but resist the urge. Trust us, it’s not worth the stress of a huge credit card bill.

Pro Tip: Buying gifts on a cash only system, setting a firm spending limit and assigning money to certain  categories (gifts, dining, travel, etc) are a few of the tips The Balance provides in their resource, How to Stick to Your Holiday Budget.

There you have it, four simple ways you can reduce stress and promote good mental health. From all of us at GoDoTrip, we wish you happy holidays!