BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — While the holiday season is an exciting time for many people, it may not always be merry and bright.

Dr. Wendy Weinstein is a psychiatrist at BryLin Hospital. She says when it comes to the holidays, many people have unrealistic expectations.

“They think that we’re going to get together during the holidays and we’re gonna push away all of the problems that we have as families and we’re just gonna come together and be one, and it is usually a recipe for disaster,” Dr. Weinstein said. “We have to have realistic expectations about the holidays, especially in this day and age with people being strapped with money, inflation, wanting to make everything perfect. That may not happen.”

So how do we navigate holiday-related stress? The first step: lowering those expectations.

“If you feel like you wanna go to 10 different places during the holiday, you don’t have to,” Dr. Weinstein said. “I always tell people: focus on yourself. Focus on you and what’s good for you. Don’t try to please other people.”

Dr. Weinstein also suggests having expectations when it comes to what you can afford.

“Some people don’t want a gift. Maybe they want a donation somewhere, maybe they need some money for groceries, maybe they need some gas in their car,” Dr. Weinstein said. “Maybe ask the person, ‘I want to help you. What can we do this year to make it different?’ You don’t have to have these magical thoughts in your head that you have to do these wonderful things that maybe the other person doesn’t even want.”

What about that big family gathering, where stress and anxiety typically have a seat at the table?

“Bring your own car, stay for a little, and then you can leave,” Dr. Weinstein said. “Don’t get into all these old issues. Keep it superficial. I know it doesn’t sound like it’s the perfect way to deal with things, but the holidays’ not the time to kinda dredge up old issues in life.”

No matter your holiday stress level, Dr. Weinstein reminds everyone: take it one day at a time.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, help is available. Erie County’s Crisis Hotline is available 24 hours a day: 716-834-3131. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24 hours a day: 1-800-273-8255. For more information, visit CrisisServices.org.

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Jordan Norkus is an award-winning anchor who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.