It’s been said that the holidays are the one time of year we get together with family to remember why we only see them one time a year.

We live in stressful times. The holidays can be particularly challenging when it comes to family dynamics. Here are some tips to help you have a calmer and stress-free holiday season.

Ten Ways to have a Stress-Free Holiday Season

1. Plan ahead
It can be tempting to attend multiple events in multiple locations during the holidays; however, if you give in to the temptation you may find yourself running around all over the place trying to visit everyone. Plan ahead by limiting your appearances to one or two special occasions. It may help to alternate locations in even and odd years.  For example, if you’re a married couple you may choose to spend the holidays with your parents in even-numbered years and then with your spouse’s parents in odd-numbered years. Look for compromises whenever possible to have a stress-free season.

2. Say no
It’s okay to say “no!” If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, just set limits. For example, if you’ve been invited to too many holiday events this year, just say “no” and thank them for the offer, then consider attending next year. The ones who matter won’t mind you saying “no,” and the ones who mind you saying “no” don’t matter.

3. Plan spending
Make a budget and stick with it. Remember that the purpose of the season is friends and family, not material goods. Don’t buy a lot of things that you’ll be paying off well into the next year. Consider making something hand-made instead if you have the time and talent, or just offer to help out. Your family will cherish and remember the hand-made things longer than something bought from a store. I know I still have many gifts that were made for my by my children that I cherish to this day.

4. Create a soothing environment
Turn on calming holiday music. Light scented candles. Dim the lights and create ambience. Research demonstrates that scents and music are especially useful in creating a stress-free environment.

5. Set boundaries
We all have at least one relative who triggers us at holiday get-togethers. Deal with difficult friends and relatives by setting appropriate boundaries. Remember that you can agree with another’s right to hold their viewpoint without agreeing with the viewpoint itself. If they still refuse to respect your boundaries, consider not inviting them next year. Being blood-related to someone doesn’t give them the right to be mentally or verbally abusive.

6. Respect differences
All families have different viewpoints, different interests, and different tastes. You can honor those varying opinions and interests without having to agree with them. It helps to focus on what you have in common instead of what you disagree on. This is difficult, but with practice you can respect differences, set appropriate boundaries, and have a calmer holiday season.

7. Be realistic
If you are one of those people who routinely takes on too much during the holiday season then winds up regretting it, learn to be realistic about budgeting your time and energy. Ask family members to help, or set aside some tasks for later and eliminate others altogether. Focus on the intention of the season, which is spending time with loved ones, and the rest will fall into place.

8. Take a break
Before beginning any holiday activity, first ask yourself, “What’s the smallest thing I can do today to make a difference?” then concentrate on doing that. Once that’s done, take a break. If you have any energy left after your break, then go on to the next thing. Repeat this process until you’re out of energy or you’ve finished everything.

9. Be flexible
The nature of plans is that they change…sometimes on the spur of the moment. It helps to realize that this will happen at least once and with all probability more than once this holiday season. When you plan ahead and expect the unexpected, you’re less likely to be stressed out when things go wrong. Flexibility goes a long way towards helping you de-stress your holidays.

10. Unplug
Finally, don’t forget to spend time outdoors! While the holidays tend to be less conducive to outdoor activities, depending on the weather where you live, you can still bundle up and enjoy a brisk walk around the block or in a park. Spending time outdoors naturally calms the nervous system and re-sets your body to help you calm down and be more present in the moment.

Always remember to focus on the intention of the holidays: Spending time with loved ones. Everything else is secondary to that goal. A year from now your family won’t remember the decorations, the party, or the meal, but they will remember the laughter, good times, and the love you shared together!