It's supposed to be all fun and cheer, so why does it so often bring on the tears?

The holidays can be a tough time for many people. Just ask Mike Santoro, a motivational speaker who is a busy husband and father dealing with a diagnosis.

"I suffer from schizo-effective disorder, which is a combination of schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder," he said. "For me, the holidays was always a period that was very difficult."

He said the season can be tough for many.

"Definitely it's stressful. I think with all families it's the same way; they kind of leave you feeling stressed out," said Santoro.

He manages his illness with an important equation: 20 per cent medication and 80 per cent lifestyle.

He said it's the lifestyle habits that really make a difference in busy times like the holidays.

"You want to go to the mall. I could feel the stress of the people; the business, the running around and people in a hurry," he said.

His plan for stress-free celebrations is one everybody can learn from.

Here are his rules:


1. Have a holiday budget

"If not, spending becomes out of control and then you suffer the consequences in January and February," said Santoro.

Create lists and amounts you want to spend. Avoid last-minute shopping and impulse buying.


2. Avoid overbooking yourself

"Especially during the holidays, I'm very vigilant with my agenda to not to overbook things," said Santoro.

While some may feel lonely over the holidays and seek more social interaction, saying yes to too many events can leave you burned out.


3. Budget your time for those must-attend events

"I make it limited," said Santoro. "Maybe one hour is more than enough for you, maybe two hours, maybe three hours. But don't make it a whole-day affair, because that could be really overwhelming if it's with people you're not comfortable with that make you more stressed."


4. Stay healthy

Get enough sleep and don't overdo the food and drink.

If you overindulge, Santoro has a suggestion.

"Go for a walk. Just take a simple walk and take some fresh air. These are things I do to stay on track," he said.


5. Avoid sad triggers

Try to stay away things that can provoke sad or negative thoughts.

"I think when someone is watching a commercial or something where someone is having the perfect family or perfect holidays, that adds to the feeling of loneliness. I know for me it did," said Santoro.


One more tip from CTV Montreal:

6. Stay organized

Online shopping can take the stress out of going into the malls, but remember, the holidays are not all about the gifts. Spending time with people you care about, having a real conversation beyond a quick e-mail or text.

Santoro said during the holidays he often writes his wife heartfelt letter telling her what he appreciates about her.

Santoro's bottom line? Be kind to yourself and those you care about.