While the holidays draw us closer to friends and family, they frequently invite an unwelcome guest: stress. It’s hardly surprising, given the many demands of the season – including parties, shopping, baking, and entertaining. Taking a few smart steps now can minimize your anxiety, allowing you to enjoy the holiday season to the fullest.

Plan Ahead. Postponing your shopping trips until the last possible moment generates a tremendous amount of unnecessary stress. Use a shopping list to avoid the last-minute rush to purchase forgotten items, and don’t put off buying something today that might not be available tomorrow. If your schedule permits, try shopping off-hours. Hitting the stores as soon as they open – or shortly before closing – means you’ll enjoy more room in the aisles, have an easier time locating a sales associate, and spend fewer minutes waiting in checkout lines. Don’t stress yourself out by overspending. Before going gift and food shopping, figure out how much you can afford – and stick to it. Sorting and storing gifts according to each recipient makes it easier to itemize spending, review your gift inventory, and wrap your purchases.

Ask For Help. If you’re hosting family gatherings this year, you don’t have to go it alone. Save time by purchasing prepared items to add to your own cooking, or consider having the whole thing catered! Don’t forget to line up help for party prep and cleanup. Your celebration doesn’t have to be perfect, or exactly the same as it was last year. As families change and expand, it’s only natural for traditions to evolve, as well. Choose a few customs to hang on to, but stay open to creating new ones. Consider meeting with a group of friends to wrap gifts, share shopping tips, and support one another through the chaos of the holidays.

Take Care Of Yourself. Don’t take on too much, and guard your time by learning to say no. Saying yes when you’d rather say no leaves you feeling resentful and frustrated. True friends will understand that you can’t participate in every single project or activity, so don’t feel compelled to accept every invitation you receive. Overindulging in food only fuels feelings of stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack prior to attending holiday parties to avoid going overboard on sweets, cheese, or drinks. Take care of yourself – and rejuvenate your mind and body – by getting plenty of rest and exercise. Stargaze while taking an evening stroll, get a relaxing massage, or enjoy some soothing music.

Expectations are often higher during the holiday season than at any other time of year – only fueling our anxiety when everything isn’t perfect. When stress is at its worst, it can be difficult to stop and focus. But, with proper planning, a willingness to rely on others, and taking time off from the festivities to relax, you might just find that you enjoy the holidays more than ever before!