Beating The Holiday Blues

Stressed? Depressed?

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The rush of holiday preparations can make even the most organized person feel overwhelmed.

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Learn five tips to survive the holiday blues.

Expectations of what Christmas "should be" can trigger feelings of sadness.

But the holidays don't have to be that way.

"I have learned in my own life to do what I can to keep the holidays simple so I can kick back and enjoy the time with family and friends," said counseling psychologist Lori Martinez.

Each person holds their own beliefs about the holidays and how they presume others in the family will or should act.

"I think folks have an expectation to feel joy and peace," she said.

Instead, people feel pressured to spend money on presents, even if they are already struggling financially, and the joy of giving is lost to worry.

"For folks who do not have that kind of budget, meeting the needs of children who are watching television and saying I want that and that can be a real downer," Martinez said.

Martinez' recommendation is to ask yourself, "How does this activity fit my values?"

"Fighting for the last parking space in the mall and getting angry with people is not what this season is about," she said.

Some families, usually where there are no children, choose just to send cards, make phone calls or get together and spend time with each other over the season in a low stress way.

Change rather than lower your expectations by taking a realistic look at financial and emotional resources, Martinez said.

If you like to cook, plan some nice meals, or bake cookies or bread as gifts.

Enjoy the outdoors -- go to the park, walk or take a hike.

Avoid traffic and shopping malls and try to tune out the commercialism.

Set limits and boundaries for yourself and be consistent.

"Make a decision that this is what you would like to do for the holidays -- take a couple of days and just relax," Martinez said.

Music can be a nice outlet. Listen to a concert or go caroling in a nursing home.

"It is important for people to stop long enough around the holidays to examine what their expectations are, and see if there is a connection to feelings of sadness, dread or fatigue," she said. "A lot of times, our bodies tell us long before our heads do that something is not quite right."

Lethargy, change or lack of appetite, lack of interest in things ordinarily enjoyable, social isolation and withdrawal, moodiness, low frustration tolerance and sleep changes are all hallmarks of depression.

Remember those people you care about. Communicate with them.

Martinez encourages family meetings to talk about issues that affect them and do so in a democratic way, taking the age of the children into consideration.

"Don't beat yourself up if you can't get something you planned done."

Five tips to survive the holiday blues

  • Talk Things Out. Many adults experience "holiday blues." If you're not able to compensate for it in some other way, or feel that the "blues" might be drifting into depression, seek professional help.
  • Start New Traditions. If you've recently lost a loved one, if the holiday season is the anniversary of such a loss, or if your living situation has changed in the past year and you are away from loved ones, try to start new holiday traditions.
  • Participate When You Can. If you're feeling blue, it's difficult to have much enthusiasm for social expectations such as gift-giving or party-going.
  • Take Care of Yourself. Holiday media messages can be overwhelming at the height of the season. This might be a good time to spend evenings with a good book or quiet music instead of watching television.
  • Volunteer Your Time.

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