How to cope with holiday stress

The holiday season is a joyous time, filled with friends, family and good food. But for some of us, this time of the year can not only be stressful, but sometimes down-right depressing. 

Our excitement can turn into stress and anxiety, mixed with empty expectations and disappointments. This is often referred to as the holiday blues, and can have major effects on our minds and bodies.

Some people feel sad during the winter months due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). But doctors stress there is a difference between the occasional blue feeling, which is normal, and diagnosed depression. It is advised that you see your family doctor if you have prolonged feelings of sadness.

Here are tips on how to battle the blues this time of year: 

  1. Make time for yourself. Many of us find the holidays to be stressful and it's important to not forget about yourself. Treat yourself to a special gift. Take yourself out to lunch. Put your cellphone aside and take an hour to yourself, with no technology and no pressures. Experts say to focus on yourself for at least 15 minutes a day.
  2. Channel your stress into something good. Stress can lead to medical problems such as high blood pressure, immune and digestive complications, heart attack and sleeplessness. Try yoga, which is highly recommended to relieve stress. The $27 billion industry has been medically recognized to help boost positivity and relaxation. Dr. Timothy McCall, internist and medical editor, says to also incorporate omega 3-fatty acids, Vitamin D and B in addition to yoga to help elevate your mood.
  3. Try something new. Finding a new way to enjoy the holidays can take your mind off life's worries. Spend some time looking at Christmas lights in your area, take a ride to the country and witness the peaceful silence of winter or go window shopping.
  4. Be realistic. Experts at Psychology Today  say to not expect the holidays to be just as they were when you were younger. You are not the same as when you were a child, and no one else in the family is either. Go into each holiday with new, realistic expectations. 
  5. Do something good. If you're feeling down, do something to bring yourself up. Volunteer at a food pantry or do something nice for a stranger. Positive psychologists have verified that doing good deeds and being grateful is a healthy exercise for people. Check out our Random Acts of Kindness Challenge .
  6. Make to-do lists. Lynn Bufka, a psychologist with the American Psychological Association, told USA Today that we need to break the pattern of letting our minds wander. If you are in the midst of an activity, but you begin to think about all the other things you need to complete or buy, write it down and check things off the list as you go. Physically checking off completed items will give you a feeling of accomplishment. 

If you feel as though your stress or depression is more than you can handle, visit your doctor to discuss therapy treatments. 

Have a safe and stress-free holiday season!

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