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10 Tips to Beat the Holiday Blues

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, we're vulnerable to holiday blues.

As we approach Thanksgiving, we're starting a five-week period called "the holidays." We're supposed to look forward to the holidays and hope that they will be a time of happiness, friendliness, fellowship, and harmony. Yet often our anticipation and excitement turns into feelings of depression, commonly called holiday blues. Symptoms can include headaches, insomnia, uneasiness, anxiety, sadness, intestinal problems, and unnecessary conflict with family and friends.

Part of what happens in the holiday season, in terms of mood changes and anxiety, may occur because of the stressfulness of holiday events. Overdrinking, overeating, and fatigue may also cause it. The demands of the season are many: shopping, cooking, travel, houseguests, family reunions, office parties, more shopping and extra financial burden. Our current recessionary economy may exacerbate many of us who are already stressed out or depressed.

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Here are some tools to get through the holiday season happily, as well as ways to prevent problems and misery for yourself and your loved ones.

1. Be reasonable with your schedule. Do not overbook yourself into a state of exhaustion--this makes people cranky, irritable, and depressed.

2. Decide upon your priorities and stick to them. Organize your time.

3. Remember, no matter what our plans, the holidays do not automatically take away feelings of aloneness, sadness, frustration, anger, and fear.

4. Be careful about resentments related to holidays past. Declare an amnesty with whichever family member or friend you are feeling past resentments. Do not feel it is helpful or intimate to tell your relative every resentment on your laundry list of grievances. Don't let your relative do that to you, either. If you need help with unburdening yourself of your investments, check out these seven strategies for giving up resentments.

5. Don't expect the holidays to be just as they were when you were a child. They NEVER are. YOU are not the same as when you were a child, and no one else in the family is either.

6. Feeling like you are under scheduled or under planned for the holidays? Volunteer to serve holiday dinner at a homeless shelter. Work with any number of groups that help underprivileged or hospitalized children at the holidays. There are many, many opportunities for doing community service. No one can be depressed when they are doing community service.

7. Plan unstructured, low-cost fun holiday activities: window-shop and look at the holiday decorations. Look at people's Christmas lighting on their homes, take a trip to the countryside, etc.--the opportunities are endless.

8. If you drink, do not let the holidays become a reason for over-indulging and hangovers. This will exacerbate your depression and anxiety. Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol is a depressant. People with depression shouldn't drink alcohol", says Sherry Rogers, MD, in her 1997 book on "Depression."

9. Give yourself a break; create time for yourself to do the things YOU love and need to do for your physical and mental wellness: aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, spiritual practices, taking long fast walks or any activity that calms you down and gives you a better perspective on what is important in your life.

10. Most of all, if you find yourself feeling blue just remember: The choice is always yours: The sky is partly sunny, and the glass is half full and revel in our gratitude for our bounty, health, hope, and our courage to face each day with hope and determination.

If you need more help than these tips offer you, then go to this very funny video, which talks about tips for the holiday blues on Jon Stewart's Daily Show.

 

Mark Sichel is a psychotherapist in New York City and the author of Healing from Family Rifts.

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