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Your holiday mood: “Joy to the World” or “Bah Humbug?”

A few key strategies may help manage feelings of stress and depression which are common during the holiday season.

In addition to visits from family and friends, the holiday season can often bring unwelcome guests: anxiety, fatigue and depression. The holidays come with a long list of demands, and keeping up with them along with the realities of daily life – all while trying to make things “perfect” – can become overwhelming.   

Some practical tips, courtesy of health experts from American Psychological Association and the Mayo Clinic, may help to keep stress and sadness from taking over during the busy weeks ahead.

• Acknowledge and accept your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. If you’ve recently lost someone close to you, you can’t be with loved ones or you’re dealing with other personal problems, it’s normal for feelings of sadness and grief to be magnified this time of year. 

• Be realistic, not rigid. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like those of the past. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. 

• Lend a helping hand.  It’s hard to feel unhappy while you are busy helping someone else. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, wrap gifts for less fortunate kids, or spend time with an elderly relative or friend. 

• Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Let grievances go until a more appropriate time. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes wrong; chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.

• Stick to a budget. Decide in advance how much money you can afford to spend, and be disciplined. Don’t try to buy happiness with a pile of gifts.

• Learn to say no. Saying yes to commitments when you don’t want to can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. If it’s not possible to say no to certain things you’d rather not do, try to remove something else from your schedule to make up for the lost time.

• Don’t abandon healthy habits. Allowing the holidays to become an eating and drinking free-for-all only creates additional stress, guilt and later, regret. Continue to make healthy meals, regular exercise and plenty of sleep a priority.

• Take a breather. Remember to regularly make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, doing something you enjoy, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do and restore feelings of calm.

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