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Take the stress out of the season

December 1, 2013
The Herald-Star

While most of us are pretty happy that the holidays have come upon us once again, most of us also encounter people who do not enjoy the holidays.

It can simply be a bah-humbug distaste for hustle, bustle and creeping commercialism, or deep-rooted issues having to do with family or Christmases past.

But for some, it's even more. It's an overriding depression, a feeling not just of a lack of joy or of crabbiness but of sadness and dread and anxiety.

For those, first understand it's perfectly natural. The holidays can bring with them expectations that few of us can meet. There can be a disruption of natural routines, too much work to do in too little a time, or maybe it's the first December being faced after the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, it's simple stress that troubles the sufferer.

Holiday depression can be even more difficult for those who have suffered depression in the past.

And there are those who suffer from the dark days resulting from the recent time change. Get a full-spectrum lamp and use it daily to combat seasonal affective disorder.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers some tips on managing the holidays for those with social anxiety disorders who feel pressured to attend gatherings they'd otherwise choose to avoid.

The recommendations include:

Destress yourself. Don't set high expectations for yourself or holiday events. Underanticipate and perhaps you'll be surprised. And if you're not, it's OK. Things don't always go as planned for most people.

Recognize that most people are not paying attention to you at a party or gathering. Sometimes, they're actually wondering what you think of them. Don't hesitate to compliment others, which can make them feel good, and in turn that makes you feel good.

Do not fear something as "the worst" when it's most likely you might just feel a little uncomfortable at worst.

Do not look for relief in alcohol or drugs. Both can make anxiety worse or trigger panic attacks.

Smile, make eye contact, and ask questions of others, perhaps about their travel plans or what their children are doing. Avoid religion, politics or other topics that trigger angry debate and add to stress.

Say "no." Avoid overscheduling yourself, and don't hesitate even to eliminate traditions that cause you more stress than joy.

Plan your travel ahead, and plan for that trip through the security line at the busy airport by being sure to have IDs handy and carry-ons packed according to the rules, which are available on the TSA's website.

Take care of yourself. Eat properly and make sure the family does so, too. Keep up with your exercise schedule, and keep stressful events for children to a minimum.

Remember, it is OK not to be fully enveloped with happiness during the season of joy. But you can make choices to bring joy to yourself and thus make yourself a joy to others.

 
 

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