First, it’s Halloween. Next comes Thanksgiving. Then it’s the Christmas season and it’s supposed to be the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’ Unfortunately, for some people, it’s actually the most miserable time of the year filled with emotions like increased stress, anxiety, depression and more. The holiday season doesn’t have to derail your life if you’re focused and prepared. How can you do it?

Dr. Alok Trivedi is a psychological performance and human behavior expert. He is the founder of the Aligned Performance Institute and author of the book ‘Chasing Success.’

Dr. Trivedi’s tips to stay levelheaded as we head into the holidays:

–        It’s okay to be Scrooge: If you just can’t get into the spirit of the season, don’t beat yourself up. The reality is that not everybody gets all excited over the holidays. Society makes you feel bad if you’re not into it, but it’s perfectly okay if you don’t. Stop judging yourself and don’t let other people get you down.

–        Make time for solitude: The holidays bring more demands for our time. It’s parties, outings, travel, religious services, people staying in our homes and more. Some people love this but others not so much. It’s important to carve out time to be by yourself. Even as little as 30 minutes per day can have tremendous benefits. Do something you truly enjoy or just soak in the peace and quiet.

–        Avoid emotional eating: This time of year, food is in abundance. Many of us tend to eat to handle the emotional chaos instead of addressing it. This only adds pounds and makes you feel even worse. If something is bothering you, don’t turn to food. Address it no matter how insignificant it may seem.

–        Communicate with family & friends: Although the holidays are a stressful time, it’s people’s inability to communicate and make assumptions that gets them into trouble. It’s important to be on the same page as your family and friends otherwise there’s going to be resentment and chaos. Make an extra effort to communicate better and listen to others.

–        Know your limits: Life is challenging enough without having to worry about the holidays. Be realistic in terms of what you can and can’t handle. It’s nice to want to make yourself available to everything and everyone, but it’s also unrealistic and going to take a toll on your mental and physical health. Keep a calendar and stick to it. Learn to prioritize things and remember, there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘no.’

–        Make a financial plan: Money is one of the biggest stressors of the holiday season. If you have to buy gifts, start putting money aside for this now so you’re not dipping into your checking or savings account, or worse, going into debt. Remember, it’s perfectly acceptable to cut-down on gift-giving and just give something small to those closest to you.

–        Have more sex: Yes, seriously! Sex is the most natural high in the world that releases feel-good chemicals in the brain. It can help boost your mood; reduce stress, worry and anxiety; help you stay connected with your partner; and it’s good exercise.

–        Talk about your feelings: Not everyone experiences the joy of the season. Many of us are thinking about past holidays with loved ones who are no longer with us. Others are consumed by challenges going on in their lives right now. You may experience an array of thoughts and feelings and that’s perfectly normal. If you’re having trouble coping, don’t hold it in. Talk to a close friend, family member or mental health professional.

Tips provided by Dr. Alok Trivedi