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Does Holiday Depression have you Singing the Blues?

Posted Oct 04 2009 11:11pm
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* Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress
* Herbal Remedies Can Help you Manage Stress

Do the words “I want, I need, buy me, get me” sound familiar? For children, the holidays are a time of leisure and joy that evoke family gatherings, elaborately gift-wrapped presents, and winter vacation. Unfortunately for many of us, the holiday season often brings with it the scary gifts of holiday stress and depression. Experts agree – the holiday season evokes more depressed or anxious feelings then any other time of the year.

Halloween has hardly passed and Christmas trees, Menorahs, and all sorts of holiday ornaments are already neatly displayed in many department stores. This leads to fueling anxiety in many people due to the sheer number of tasks that must be accomplished during the rapidly-approaching holidays. Thoughts of Christmas shopping, family gatherings and the visiting in-laws – amongst other things – are bound to induce stress and anxiety even for those not typically prone to these emotional states.

According to Ann Vernon, a counseling professor at the University of Northern Iowa, "Stress is an emotional reaction to circumstances that you feel are out your of control." The onset of winter, with its low temperatures and shorter days, often contributes to feeling blue by causing seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Living a long distance from family or friends and not being able to visit or having lost a loved one can contribute to increased feelings of sadness and loneliness. These emotions are bound to make an appearance during the holiday season when all feelings are heightened. Although it’s not easy, there are numerous ways of helping you deal with holiday grief.
Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress
Try to be honest with yourself and recognize your feelings

Regardless of what is causing your grief, it’s a good idea to acknowledge and express it. You may need some alone time. On the contrary, you may feel better sharing and discussing your thoughts and feelings with someone. Most importantly, understand that it’s ok; many people experience seasonal depression and holiday blues.
Seek support

If talking to a family member or friend about your feelings isn’t enough to make you feel better, you may want to seek professional help. It is crucial to find an outlet for your emotions. This will release tension and help you gain a fresh perspective.
Set realistic goals

Most of us don’t have Martha Stewart’s cooking or party planning abilities. That’s perfectly fine; your family doesn’t expect that from you. Mostly, everyone wants to enjoy themselves and spend time with family, friends, and loved-ones.
Be flexible

During the holiday season, there seems to always be an occasion for numerous family members to come together in confined spaces. A scenario where a number of different personalities are brought together can many times facilitate conflict. Try to make an effort to be patient and flexible. After all, you may not be the only one in your family suffering from holiday blues.
Set a holiday budget and stick to it

Be prepared to spend some extra money. Things such as gifts, food, and travel expenses are all a normal part of holiday expenses. However, stick to a manageable budget. It doesn’t make sense to start the New Year with a ton of credit card debt or little money in your bank account. Remember, this will only add to your stress. If you typically exchange gifts, try playing games such as “Secret Santa.” This way everyone buys and receives one gift. This may significantly reduce gift-buying expenses, take away from shopping stress, and lower the overall amount of Christmas money you need. It’s also a great way to bring the focus back to what the holidays are really about, rather than on spending tremendous amounts of money.
Have a plan

Planning in advance can make your life a lot easier during the holiday season. Christmas shopping can be done a few months in advance before the shopping mall madness. And although “Black Friday” savings may be fantastic, honestly ask yourself if it’s truly worthwhile to get up at 5 in the morning and fight the crowds over a digital camera and a laptop. If it is, have fun! If it’s not your cup of tea, then skip it. Sales occur all year round. Other anxiety triggers can be avoided, such as stress related to holiday party planning. Simply cook some of your favorite holiday recipes in advance and freeze the items until you are ready to use them.
Stick to healthy habits or make it a point to adopt them

Make continuing or adopting healthy habits a part of your New Year’s resolution. If you already exercise regularly, don’t skip the precious time you dedicate to your own health just because life is hectic during the holidays. If you don’t exercise, you should try to incorporate at least a moderate work-out into your daily routine. It is well known that exercise, even in moderate forms contributes to elevating endorphins, an essential bio-chemical compound needed for our well-being. Brisk walking is considered one of the best forms of exercise, and is a great way to help clear your mind and keep you fit. You’ll find that just 30 minutes per day will make a huge difference. Also, try not to over-indulge in food and alcoholic beverages. By maintaining a balanced body and mind, you can avoid one of the great contributors to holiday stress: weight-gain.
Help others

Many times we are too focused on our own personal problems to look around us. Spending time volunteering is a great way to help others, and is a positive way to lift your spirit during the holidays. Toy drives, homeless shelters, nursing homes, and hospitals all offer the opportunity for you to make a difference in someone’s life. Many people are alone during the holidays, and quite a few of them feel helpless and lonely, such as the elderly and disabled.
Take a break

Try to find some time to be alone. If you can, make it a point to relax or simply do nothing for at least 20 minutes. This is hard sometimes, but even the bathroom is a good place to be alone with no interruptions. Try taking a relaxing bath or a soothing hot shower. Practicing mindfulness through meditation is another great way to keep things in perspective and help you focus on the moment at hand.

Many times, anxiety is rooted in worrying about future events that we really cannot predict or control, and this is especially prevalent during the holiday season. Focusing on the moment is bound to relieve anxiety and help you sleep better at night. It’s good to observe children when considering mindfulness, for they truly live within each moment. They play with enjoyment, eat with gusto, and fall instantly into peaceful sleep. They haven’t learned to worry.

Reducing holiday stress activities can also include watching “feel-good” movies such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street.” These all-time favorites are a great way to spend an evening alone or with family.
Help employees manage holiday stress

According to a poll performed by Accenture’s HR Services which included 600 full-time employees, 66% of the participants reported experiencing an increase in stress at work during the holidays. The top stress factors included trying to balance extra demands at home with work, holiday-shortened deadlines, and end-of-the-year business demands.

Many organizations have found crafty ways of helping employees to manage holiday stress. Some companies allow employees time to shop for gifts online, take a shopping day off, and loosen-up dress codes. Planning a day where everyone gets together in the lunchroom for hot chocolate and treats to share holiday plans is also a great way to lighten up during the holiday season.
Herbal Remedies Can Help You Manage Stress

There are many natural herbal and homeopathic remedies that may be of assistance if you feel unmanageable stress levels during the holiday season. A holistic approach to treating holiday-related stress encourages exploring physical and psychological effects of stress, and aims to treat the individual as a whole.

Some herbal remedies for stress are Hypericum perforatum (St John’s Wort), Passiflora incarnata, Scuttelaria laterifolia (Scullcap) and Valerian. Theses herbal remedies all serve to relieve the anxiety and tension related to stress and can offer much-needed relief during shopping trips, family gatherings, and even work-related anxiety.

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