As much as we’d like to imagine the holiday spirit as a hallmark experience of hot chocolate in front of a crackling fire with beautiful presents under a glittering tree in cozy flannel pj’s, the reality for most of us is more like a Nightmare on 34th Street. Here are a few ideas that just might turn your snowman frown upside down before you’re ready to throw out the tinsel and the tree.

LET IT GO

Take time, no MAKE time for you this holiday season. It may seem like obligations are monopolizing all of your time but that just isn’t so. There are always quiet moments during a blizzard like early mornings when stress has you wide awake but the rest of your house is still asleep or at night when you’re too frazzled with the daily to-do list to close your eyes. These quiet moments are a great time to read a book, write down your thoughts, take a bath, apply calming homeopathic drops, light candles or meditate. As few as 10 minutes a day of relaxation has been proven to decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular health and improve problem solving skills.

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS

If the months between October and January weren’t difficult enough, adding exposure to social media and the daily news can plummet the holiday spirit to Scrooge levels. The anxiety created by current events impacts our mental state on every level from an increase in tension and panic attacks to a sense of vulnerability and a fear that something terrible could happen to ourselves or our loved ones. Extensive studies have proven that even the process of multitasking between social media platforms can be detrimental to our mental health. Avoiding the news as much as possible and limiting your time spent on facebook, twitter and instagram are great tools that will help to keep your spirit high and your attention focused during the most stressful months of the year.

NO TIME FOR TOXIC

I think we can all agree that holiday gatherings can be one of the biggest contributing factors to winter anxiety. Hands down, let’s just go ahead and admit that it’s probably the winner. Contrary to popular belief, attending everything you’re invited to during the holidays is not a requirement. In most cases, your sanity can remain intact simply by avoiding toxic situations but occasionally, even with fancy footwork, they can’t be evaded. The thing about Christmas is that it’s usually less It’s a Wonderful Life and more National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. There are a couple of things that can help combat these unavoidable obligitory gatherings. First, keep your head down and your expectations even lower. Second, steer clear of tricky topics and tricky people. It may mean taking a walk, hiding in the bathroom or leaving early to avoid a meltdown but the important thing to remember is that these gatherings are over quickly and you made an appearance.

MAKE MEMORIES

December is magic, there is no doubt about it. With enough cookie baking, tinsel hanging, snowman building, ornament making and hot cocoa, the memory of this Christmas season can go down as the most Rockwellian one of your life. This December is special because it will only happen once. The most important thing you can do between now and 2018 is stop mid hussle bussle and smell the snow. Happy Holidays!