LOUISVILLE, Ky. – For many people, holidays are not always a Hallmark movie.

Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health. Dr. Sarah Johnson, the medical director at Landmark Recovery, encourages people to take care of themselves.

“Setting healthy boundaries and making your needs known to others around you is very important,” said Dr. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson recommends being realistic, planning ahead, and to seek support as ways of warding off stress and depression.

“It really is possible to take a step back and preplan and think about priorities and the things that are most important to you during the holiday season and to make time for those,” she said.

Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress and Depression

Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out events. They can offer support and companionship.

Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together.

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Understand if others get upset. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends, and other activities. It’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling.

Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.

Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Seek professional help if you need it. If sad feelings or bad habits take root, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.