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The holiday season is filled with so much to enjoy. Shopping, parties, time with family, and an abundance of sweet treats are all part of the fun, but these traditions can also be sources of stress. In contrast to anticipated holiday cheer, many individuals will find themselves overwhelmed with feelings of stress, anxiety, and even depression.

If a person continues to face stressful situations without relief, symptoms can intensify and lead to physical problems and mental distress. In fact, 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and 75 to 90 percent of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

Fortunately, there are proactive steps to take during the holidays to help fight stress and prevent more serious conditions.

Set reasonable expectations and don’t expect the holiday season to be perfect.
Practice healthy drinking habits. Alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate feelings of stress and sadness. Too much alcohol can also interfere with healthy sleep and interrupt natural sleep cycles.
Keep up your exercise regimen as it will provide effective stress relief and productive alone time. A short daily walk can have a big impact.
Set spending limits and stick to them. Over-spending during the holidays can lead to continued stress down the road.
Treat your body well with balanced nutrition but don’t feel guilty when indulging during the holidays. Moderation is key and is a far healthier response to holiday treats than starvation. Take your time with meals and enjoy the special foods available this time of year.
Create a space and time for yourself during family gatherings. Take a walk outside, find a quiet corner in the house, or make a quick trip to the store to gather your thoughts and relax.
Plan any shopping and cooking in advance. Setting a schedule and making priorities will prevent too much from piling up at the last minute.
Talk to someone. Seek support and affirmation of how your expectations for the season don’t always match with reality. A good listener and a good laugh can be great stress relievers.

If you continue to feel anxious, sad, or if your mood is interfering with sleeping, eating, or any of your usual activities, consider professional treatment. Sometimes holiday blues are more than just passing emotions and can be something more serious like depression, anxiety, or a related disorder.

If you are concerned about yourself, please visit www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org to take an anonymous mental health screening. The brief assessment will let you know if you have symptoms consistent with a mental illness and where to seek treatment.

Give yourself the gift of mental health this holiday season and keep your stress under control.

Photo Credit: Katie Hickey

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