We have to think that the holidays are right there with starting a new job, moving, getting married or having a kid, when it comes to the “things in life that stress us out” category. Even the fact that we’re already talking about the holidays is stressing me out (did I miss Halloween?). From figuring out the best gifts for the family to making a plan to continue eating clean when sugar plums dance in our heads, we could make one killer advent calendar of all the things we have to stress about around the holidays. But for Dr. Dion Metzger, a board-certified psychiatrist and the co-author of The Modern Trophy Wife: How to Achieve Your Life Goals While Thriving at Home, holidays should be for relaxing, not stressing, so she’s hooking us up with five tips to destress before the holidays even roll around.

Winter shopping season

1. Set a budget. We get it, we’re all excited about spoiling our favorite people with personal gifts that show how much we appreciate them. But buying gifts (or decorations or food) shouldn’t put you in a bad spot the rest of the year. Dr. Metzger agrees, noting, “In seeing my patients, overspending is one of the most common paths to steer you to bad feelings like anxiety and guilt. Sit down and set a budget before the shopping and entertaining season starts — and stick to it! Your bank account and peace of mind will thank you in the New Year.”

2. Sleep, sleep and sleep some more. “Do not cut back on your zzzz’s,” advises Dr. Metzger. “With all the excitement of the holidays approaching — travel, kids activities, family parties — it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness and sacrifice your sleep. Get at least seven to eight hours nightly to keep your mind and body charged for the days ahead.”

3. Make time for you. “Set a weekly time to do something you enjoy that relaxes YOU, not something your kids would enjoy, significant other likes or your parents like,” suggests Dr. Metzger. “Pick an activity that you enjoy and put in your weekly schedule. It can be anything — get a manicure, take a walk, do yoga or simply watch a movie with no distractions.” Be sure to write it down, make it a priority and treat it just as you would an important event at work.

portrait of stressed young woman near christmas tree

4. Beware of cranky people and don’t take the bait. Everyone has one — a relative you just can’t help get into the holiday spirit. But Dr. Metzger doesn’t want you to let negative Nancys ruin your mood. “Conflict, especially with family and in romantic relationships, are more likely, as tensions run high in the holiday season. It’s a simple cause and effect; people are stressed out and it often gets taken out on those closest to them. If someone wants to pick a fight with you, don’t fall into the trap. Take the high road and don’t argue back.”

5. Just say no. There’s the office party, the school play, the family gathering and… the list goes on and on. So it’s no surprise that November and December are some of the busiest social months. Dr. Metzger warns to schedule your time wisely, saying, “Do not overcommit to holiday activities. As the holidays approach, it is easy to overfill your calendar. If you can’t do it, don’t have time to do it or simply don’t want to do it, politely say no. Missing that extra holiday mixer is not a dealbreaker… they’ll live.” Well said, sister.

How do you mentally prepare for the holidays? Tweets us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)