Thursday, December 11, 2008

control your mental health

Mental health professionals see a spike in the number of cases of depression and anxiety before and during the holidays. Social demands, shrinking budgets, cranky crowds and a mile-long to-do list can lead to that stressed-out feeling – or worse. Here are some tips for keeping the joy in (and the stress out of) your holidays.

Keep your expectations reasonable.
The picture-perfect holidays you see in magazines and on TV are the product of someone's imagination and a huge creative support team. One family and certainly one person cannot make that all happen, so go easy on yourself.

Do some soul-searching.
To put the holiday in perspective, ask yourself what it really means to you. What traditions are important and what ones can you do without? For example, you may not care about decorating the house, but you might consider getting out holiday cards worth your time.

Keep your focus on people, not things.
In other words, family togetherness, not the gifts you're buying for everyone, is what really matters. Paring down your gift exchanges might meet with relief, not disappointment, from the adult recipients.

Take care of yourself.
Get adequate sleep, eat well and make time to work out or do relaxation exercises. If you treat these as a priority and schedule time for them in your calendar, they'll get done just like the rest of your projects.

Shop smart.
Shop early and avoid peak times that will add to your stress (such as the busy after-work and weekend hours). If possible, reserve a vacation day or half day to shop while the kids are in school and everyone else is at work. Whenever possible, shop online.

Set a budget and stick to it.
Overspending now will create undue stress in the following months. Don't sweat it – times are tough for everyone so no one will think anything of getting only one small gift this year…instead of 3 or 4.

Keep the holidays going.
Technically, the 12 days of Christmas don't end until January 6. Don't think that you have to deliver every gift and visit every relative in the span of a few days. Continue your celebration well into the New Year to help avoid a post-holiday letdown.

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