COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — During the holidays, feelings of stress and depression can often be exacerbated by the demands of family gatherings and shopping.

However, local experts said one of the most important things a person can do is realize that many holiday stressors are out of their control, and avoid setting unrealistic expectations.

“Practice ways to reduce anxiety, before anxiety is really high, so things like deep breathing, and exercise, and ways to sort of destress in that way,” said Kelly Breidigan, a senior lecturer with Ohio State University’s College of Social Work.

Breidigan said that over the holidays, the demands of planning and preparing for gatherings can cause people to experience feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.

Her tips for handling this are to use healthy coping mechanisms such as exercise, deep breathing, and cutting back on attending or participating in every family gathering or tradition, especially if you start to feel overwhelmed.

Breidigan said those who don’t follow those tips sometimes turn to negative coping mechanisms such as drinking, smoking, or other unhealthy habits, which can make those negative feelings worse.

“Sometimes we don’t realize it, but those neurochemistry’s that are sort of involved in feeling good and having a good mood, they get affected when your diet is poor, and you’re not getting exercise and things like that,” she said. “So it’s really important to do self-care at this time of the year, when stress is high.”

Breidigan also said to take the time to recognize holiday stressors or triggers before they happen, so that you can help manage your emotions.