Thursday, November 24, 2011

Reducing Holiday Stress and Depression

The holiday season can be a happy time for most people. Unfortunately, it can also bring some unwelcome guest such as stress and depression. And it's no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

Here are some tips to help you minimize the stress that can accompany the holidays.

1. Don't hide your feelings. If someone close to you has recently passed away or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel a sense of sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

2. Reach out to others. If you happen to feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. In addition, volunteering your time to help others is also a good way to lift your spirits.

3. Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be 100% perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals may often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to but be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together by maybe sharing pictures, emails or videos.

4. Set aside differences. Try to accept or make peace with family members and friends that you may have had a rocky relationship with in the past. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussions. And be understanding if others get upset or stressed when something goes wrong. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress just like you.

5. Stick to a budget. Before you melt that credit card or clean out your bank account on gifts and food, plan ahead. Decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Remember that you can't buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives - Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.

6. Make a plan for your time and activities. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, and visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients.

7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

8. Don't abandon your health. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.

9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

10. Seek professional help. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

If you take time to follow these simple little tips, you may find that you end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

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