Holidays, Stress And Depression: Coping Strategies

Written by Beth Marlin Lichter
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Every year it seems that commercials on tv, advertising the Christmas shopping season, start earlier and earlier. It used to be Thanksgiving weekend when the onslaught of the buying frenzy began, with huge sales. Now it starts even earlier in November, the constant nagging to buy, buy, buy.
Then there is the pressure of making plans for family reunions which inevitably backfire and end in massive catfights. Invitations to parties you don’t want to attend, and a gift list way beyond the limitations of budget, turn the holiday season into the Season from Hell. You might have lost a loved one or recently severed a long-term relationship which turns the prospect of jubilant year-end celebrating, into a joke.
For many of us, the holidays don’t feel very festive at all. Life becomes increasingly stressful, and sometimes more about the glass being half empty, rather than half full.
Here are a few survival tips:

1. Don’t go blindly into the holidays, succumbing to the expectations of others at the risk of jeopardizing your own emotional health. Decide what is important. Reject plans which are guilt-driven or frivolous. This year, can you decide not to spend Chanukah with siblings who make you miserable? Do you really need to fly across the country to be with family for two or three nights during peak travel times? Coming home exhausted and burnt-out each year is maybe not worth the effort. Perhaps there is another time of year, more relaxed for get-togethers. Be prepared to say no and make plans that feel healthier, and make you happy.
2. Decide what you can afford to buy and stick to a budget. Instead of meaningless gift-giving, perhaps a pot-luck dinner at your place, with friends, is the way to celebrate. Make it a celebration of family and friends, rather than a consumer-fest. No presents, please. Is it possible to prevent that sinking feeling in January, when the credit card bills arrive, relflecting outlandlish and irresponsible expenditures? Yes, it is.
3. Don’t abandon your healthy lifestyle. You will regret it later. For instance, do not drink excessively or eat the whole bowl of peanuts at the office party. Head home at a reasonable hour for a good night’s sleep so you don’t feel sluggish and sullen at work the next day. Some people decide that this is the time for over-indulgence…an excuse to stop exercising and begin binge-eating. After all, that box of chocolates that came in the mail was not really meant to be consumed in one night, was it? Feeling out of control will add to depression and a lack of self-esteem. Be disciplined.
4. Seek support, camaraderie and professional help, if necessary. Lunch with a compassionate and empathetic friend can really boost the spirits and put you in touch with what the holidays are really about; caring and being cared for by others.
5. Do something special for someone less fortunate than yourself. There isn’t a better time of year for showing off your generous spirit.

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