“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” goes the old song. But for many of us, not so much.

Stress from holiday parties and family gatherings, high-maintenance houseguests and endless trips to the mall can all add up. And if you’re coping with the death of a loved one or other major loss, this time of year can be downright depressing.

Don’t let stress take the “happy” out of your holidays. These simple strategies can help you manage stress, ease tension and even beat the blues – not just at the holidays, but all year long.

  1. Lower your expectations. Putting pressure on yourself to make your holidays Pinterest-perfect is a sure-fire way to increase stress and anxiety. Before you know it, you’ve set your expectations way too high.

Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Instead, focus on the quality of time you get to spend with others, and enjoy the moments for what they are.

  1. Admit when you’re feeling overwhelmed. This time of year, it’s easy to over-commit, over-shop, overdo … well, everything. Don’t try to take on too much.

When you need it, ask for help. If you’re planning a holiday party, ask others to bring a dish or to help with clean-up. This can help take some of that burden off yourself.

  1. Be realistic, and accept some stress. Let’s face it: The holidays will always be somewhat hectic. And that’s OK. You might find that sometimes, the stress can be worth it.

To help manage the stress, try making to-do lists. It gives you a sense of accomplishment to complete a task and cross it off the list.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings – even the negative ones. It’s not just regular day-to-day stress that can get in the way of a happy holiday. Dealing with the loss of a loved one can also make this a more difficult time of year.

You might be remembering moments spent together – birthdays, graduations or past holidays – and that can be hard. Instead of shutting down, try talking about it.

Share your feelings and memories with someone you trust, maybe even while looking at old family photos. This can help you reflect on more positive times and cherish them.

  1. Find time for exercise. A walk at lunchtime, a spin class before work, even a stroll around the mall while you’re shopping can boost your mood.

As your calendar fills up, don’t let exercise fall by the wayside. Add it to your schedule – just like your other activities – and make it a priority.

If holiday stress is taking a toll on your health, see your primary care provider for a checkup. He or she can offer more suggestions for managing stress and feeling your best.

Dr. William E. Kyle is an internal medicine physician with Memorial Health University Physicians Adult Primary Care Bluffton in Okatie. MemorialHealthDoctors.com