HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Knowing how to cope with holiday stress can be key to actually finding some joyful moments in this season.

Dr. Laura Saunders, a licensed psychologist with the Institute of Living, said keeping expectations realistic and showing acts of kindness can go a long way.

“The reality is not everybody is happy and joyful, and there’s often additional stress and pressure to get things done and socialize,” she said.

Saunders advises people not to lower their holiday expectations, but rather modify them and allow time for yourself.

“I also want to give people permission to say no and to set limits,” Saunders said.

That includes potentially turning down social events and shopping. Instead, she recommends focusing on some experiences to create memories over buying things.

“We won’t remember that gift that someone gave us or we gave someone from two or three years ago, but we might remember you know going out to lunch with someone and having a few laughs or having coffee with someone you haven’t connected with in a long while,” she said.

And Saunders said it’s important this time of the year not to compare yourself to others.

“There are no Hallmark families,” she said. “We all have flaws. We all have that weird or crazy uncle.”

She said reaching out to others who might be more isolated or elderly can be a positive thing for both of you.

Taking time for yourself to breath and be mindful of the moment you are in can go a long way in relieving holiday stress.

“We’re talking about taking sometimes just five minutes to take some deep breaths say some kind things to yourself, give yourself permission to not always feel great, but then to take that next step and reach out for connection,” she said.

Feeling connected to your community can also help your emotional well being. She recommends remembering town family service divisions, local food banks and volunteer opportunities out there — always in need of some help.