Between shopping for presents and holiday parties, it’s easy for one’s holiday schedule to seem overwhelming. However, there are ways to deal with the stress, according to an expert.

“Holidays are stressful because of the expectations we place on ourselves and others,” said Brittney Schrick, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture extension family life specialist. “Pressure to meet a standard seen on social media can lead to feelings of failure when you inevitably don’t meet that standard.”

Schrick gives her tips to tackle holiday stress:

Plan ahead — “Financial stressors are one of the main issues during the holidays,” Schrick said. Schrick recommends setting a budget and sticking to it to relieve some of the holiday financial stress. She also said to start your gift shopping early to avoid the last minute rush at stores. Shopping for your gifts early also allows you to spread the process, and the spending, over a longer period of time.

Consider the central goals — Take a minute to reflect on what you want to get out of your holiday. “Is your main goal to have a happy and healthy holiday season, or to have a picture-perfect holiday season? Those are often not compatible goals,” Schrick said. “Kids are especially sensitive to the stress of adults around them, so pushing kids to have perfect pictures or freaking out over something not going right will overshadow their positive experiences.” Social media tends to make us feel the need to keep up with or outdo those we are following, so taking a break can help you determine your goals for the season. “Your perception of what others are doing is not reality. Their kids are just as unruly as yours despite their matching sweaters.”

Take a minute for yourself — Deep breathing, taking a short walk or running an errand can all be good ways to take a minute to try and relieve some of the stress you may be feeling. Food choices can affect stress levels. “Even though it can be difficult, avoid overeating or eating poorly,” Schrick said. “Poor eating, especially lots of sugar or alcohol, can influence your mood and energy levels and make you feel more stressed. Find some time to exercise, even if you just walk the stairs in your own house or jog in place in the kitchen while waiting for your coffee to brew.”

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without discrimination.

— Emily Thompson is with the U of A System Division of Agriculture.