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The holiday season can bring uninvited visitors – and not just your in-laws. We’re talking about stress and depression which can arise in people during the holiday season due to a variety of circumstances, including parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, and entertaining. 

There are ways to minimize some of this stress, allowing you to enjoy the holiday season more than you might have previously thought possible. 

Set aside your differences with others 

Perhaps your family members or friends don’t always live up to your expectations. Accept that this is OK. Try to accept your family members and friends as they are. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding of others if they get upset or distressed when something doesn’t go as planned. It’s very possible they are dealing with some of the same issues that you are. 

Be realistic about the situation 

Did your holidays go perfect last year? That doesn’t mean they’re going to be perfect this year. The same is also true if last year’s holidays didn’t go so well. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to. Let others go if they aren’t quite as important. So, if your adult children and their families can’t come to your house on Christmas Day, choose another mutually agreed upon day. Or set up a video call with them via Skype or Facetime. There are plenty of ways to be together even if you can’t be together in person. Mostly, just remain flexible. 

Acknowledge your feelings about the situation 

If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s completely normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. 

Reach out 

If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out your community, religious, or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others is another great way to lift your spirits, broaden your horizons, and meet new people to make new memories with. 

Stick to a budget 

One of the most stressful things about the holiday season can be finances. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can truly afford to spend. Then stick to that budget. Don’t try to buy happiness by buying a ton of gifts. You might also consider donating to a charity, giving homemade gifts, or start a family gift exchange. 

Don’t abandon your healthy habits 

Just because it’s the holiday season, doesn’t make it a free-for-all. This type of activity can lead to feelings of stress and guilt. Try having a healthy snack before going to a party where you know lots of unhealthy options are going to be available. Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep. And even though it’s cold outside, make sure you’re getting in your exercise. A brisk walk is a great way to get your blood pumping at the start of the day. 

Just say no 

No isn’t a dirty word. It’s OK for you to say no. And it’s OK for you to say no and feel perfectly fine about it. If you’re at an event and ready to leave, don’t stick around just because others are making you feel bad for leaving. Your friends will understand if you need to leave early or pass on an event altogether. If it’s not possible to say no (for instance at work), try to remove something else from your schedule to compensate for the time. 

Take a deep breath 

Make time for yourself. Take 15 minutes without distractions to meditate. It may refresh you enough to handle the things you have to do throughout the day. Clearing your mind can reduce stress, slow your breathing and restore your inner calm. 

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 persist, talk to a licensed therapist about how you feel. 

Healthy Connections offers mental health therapists in Hot Springs, Mena, Malvern, Arkadelphia, and Mount Ida. These trained professionals can help get you back on track. Learn more about them and the services we provide at www.healthy-connections.org/bh.