Many of us will attend or host a winter holiday party this season. We have to balance normal work and home demands with special holiday events and shopping for gifts. Festive lights, warm fires, and family gatherings are common during the holidays, but unfortunately so are stress, anxiety, and sometimes, depression.

In fact, research conducted by the National Mental Health Association found that seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is caused by less exposure to sunlight during shorter winter days, can compound holiday stress. Fatigue, financial constraints, the inability to be with friends and family, and lofty expectations also contribute to holiday season. Luckily, there are ways to stay mentally and physically healthy during stressful times. Follow these tips to keep your stress levels under control.

  1. Simplify your schedule.

    Scheduling is particularly important during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Simplify your schedule so that you have one holiday event per weekend. And if that means prioritizing or splitting time with your partner, then do so. If you're overscheduled, it's easy to feel like the holidays are an emotional merry-go-round rather than a celebration. Be sure to review school events, family parties, or social outings so that you have enough time to request days off work or hire a babysitter.
  2. De-stress and decompress.

    With the various events during the holidays, it's easy to forget to give yourself time to relax. Make sure you factor in some alone time or a date to go out with friends. If crafts are a hobby of yours, kill two birds with one stone by creating handmade, meaningful gives for others. And while you're out shopping for the family, don't hesitate to give yourself a gift. Do whatever you need to ensure some decompression.
  3. Stay healthy.

    It's tough to enjoy yourself during the holidays when you're sick. Don't neglect to look after yourself while you're looking after your loved ones. The best ways to ward off illness in the cold weather months are to stay warm, eat well, and wash your hands. To stay warm, remember this mantra: "Layers, layers, layers." Stay away from greasy food and try to increase your vitamin C intake. Finally, it's no news that sickness is common in the winter; so make sure you regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria.
  4. Spread the joy.

    Don't be an Ebenezer Scrooge; there is a strong association between helping behavior and health. What's more, Stephen G. Post, a professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, describes in his book Altruism and Health how unselfish behavior distracts us from our own problems and helps give our lives greater meaning and purpose. Since altruistic behavior promotes positive emotions, look into volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating canned goods to a shelter, or simply tossing a couple of dollars to the Salvation Army. By helping others, you could be helping yourself.
  5. Remember that it will end.

    Recognize that the holidays will come and go. You may or may not have indulged in those delicious holiday cookies. You may have extended yourself far and beyond what you envisioned--mentally, physically, or both. Keep in mind that the holiday season does end and you will be able to return to a more normal schedule. And, remember, despite the financial, emotional, and physical duress associated with the holiday season, try to enjoy connecting and being with the loved ones around you.