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Simple ways to avoid stress

December 20, 2012
The Herald-Star

The holidays are supposed to bring happiness and joy, but for some it also brings stress and depression.

There are many in the area who are already stressed about unemployment and the uncertainty of the economy. Household budgets are tight, and children are expecting gifts come Christmas morning. There will be family and friends visiting, parties to attend, cleaning, shopping and baking. All of which can lead to more stress and trigger depression.

The hustle and bustle of the holidays can put a damper on this time of the year but mental health professionals have tips to keep stress and depression to a minimum.

The holidays can be a sad time if you have lost a loved one during the past year. Professionals agree it is OK to take time to grieve, have a good cry and feel sad. Don't feel pressure to be happy, it will only make you feel worse.

If you feel lonely, seek out events in your community. Attend a performance of a church choir or other social activities. Being surrounded by others can help you feel better.

Friends and family need to recognize those who are going through tough times and try to offer emotional support. Talk can be the best medicine for those who are feeling down.

There is an expectation that the holidays need to be perfect or just like ones they have been accustomed to over the years. Times change, but that doesn't mean you have to forget the good times and customs of years gone by. Pick and choose what traditions fit your life today.

Also, remember what makes you sad at this time and avoid those triggers.

Family differences can bring on stress at the holidays. Try to set aside differences during the holidays. Continuing a fight at the holidays can make coping with stress and depression even harder, and also can spoil the holidays for others.

Money problems can be made better by setting a budget for how much will be spent on gifts. Remember, it isn't the cost, it is the thought.

Pace your activities during the holidays. Set aside a day for baking or a couple days just for shopping. Don't let the stress of what you think has to be done become overwhelming. The same can be said for all the parties and events for which you have received invitations. Learn to say "no." There are only some many hours in a day.

Staying physically healthy during the holidays also can be a challenge. Stress can lead to illness. Taking a walk or getting on the treadmill can go a long way to alleviating stress, and make sure you get enough sleep. Take time for yourself. That small break is a great way to refresh yourself both physically and mentally.

Even following all the suggestions of mental health professionals may not be enough. Realize it may be time to ask for professional help.

Try to stay positive this holiday season, and don't let stress take away the holiday spirit.

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