The holiday season, which begins for most Americans with Thanksgiving and continues through New Year's Day, is a festive and meaningful time of year. However, the holidays' dizzying array of relational, financial, and physical demands can also produce stress and strong emotions, including depression.
Below are some practical tips offered by the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com) that can help prevent or minimize the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays:
Acknowledge your feelings: If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or 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 community, religious or other social events that can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden friendships.
Be realistic: The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. 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.
Set aside differences: Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
Stick to a budget: Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then, stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
Plan ahead: Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. Make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
Learn to say no: Saying "yes" when you should say "no" can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity.
Don't abandon healthy habits: Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
Take a breather: Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
Seek professional help if you need it: 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 last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional, or use the resources provided by the College's Employee Assistance Program (E.A.P)