As the holiday season kicks off, life can suddenly become a stressful time for many people. The idealistic Victorian Charles Dickens or Martha Stewart-like images of happy families dressed in the latest holiday fashion, sitting around decadently decorated tables and feasting joyously on gourmet delights can create expectations that never quite measure up to reality. If you’re like many people, you probably get so busy working through your endless to-do lists that all your hectic doing slowly hijacks your life. The result: a whole lot of stress. Good news though, with some simple modifications you can combat stress and create more space for truly savoring the season.

Keep a regular exercise routine, and maintain your usual hobbies. Use your calendar wisely to schedule activities to help keep you accountable and on top of your commitments. Invite people to join to join you along the way to give you even more reason to show up.

Try to eat healthy. Your mood and health are very closely tied to what you ingest. Sure, it’s hard to resist all temptations, but strive for a healthy balance. Consider online resources and mobile apps to help you track your food intake throughout the day. You’ll be more aware when you’ve overdone it, but also feel good about the days you stay on track.

Get enough sleep to recharge and help handle stress. Take time out during the day for breaks, and disconnect from the digital world. Actively plan to shut down in the evenings, and take steps in the evening to work towards a desired bedtime.

Don’t keep repeating the same mistakes each holiday season. By now, you probably know what makes you anxious and triggers stress. Jot them down and actively plan to avoid. Overwhelmed by gift shopping? Designate days to take care of a few gifts at a time, rather than having to feel like it has to be an event.

Don’t be afraid to tell others about how you feel. Meaningful social connections can help protect you against stress. You may be surprised to find that they are struggling too and can help provide empathy and support.

Volunteer your time. Helping others can keep you physically active, distract you from your other concerns, be therapeutic, and lead to new friends. It can be something as small as coordinating a food or clothing drive, or serving a meal at a local shelter.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Embrace your uniqueness. Each of us has a different path in life and faces different challenges and successes. Beneath the surface, you often don’t know what people are really experiencing. 

Stay optimistic. Research has shown that optimism can have health benefits. Be open to new experiences and possibilities. Sometimes the best things in life are the most unexpected.

Keep perspective. Remember the holiday season is temporary and focus on making the best of it. Try not to take yourself and things too seriously. Just make sure you maintain healthy habits and avoid behaviors that will lead to health problems (like gaining weight) beyond the holiday season.

written for Cliff Original by Frederick Entenmann, Best-Selling Author, Health & Wellness Consultant, Life Performance Coach for CEOs and Professional Athletes, Founder of Mind-Body-Life. Frederick is a former professional athlete who is a leader in the fields of corrective, high-performance exercise kinesiology, mind and body holistic health.