Feeling stressed out or ‘blue’ during the holidays?

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While the holiday season can bring joy and excitement, it can also be a time filled with increased social and family obligations, unrealistic expectations and overspending.

This mix of ingredients may sound more like a recipe for disaster instead of being the “most wonderful time of the year.” No wonder many of us feel overwhelmed, stressed out and possibly even a bit depressed during the hectic holiday season.

Many people suffer from the “holiday blues” and with good reason. It’s an emotionally charged time of year, filled with grand, yet unattainable expectations.

Stress levels often rise as holidays draw near. With all of the shopping, parties, planning, decorating and rushing around we do, it’s no wonder we feel stressed out.

Here are some practical holiday stress management tips to consider.

  • Set realistic limits and budget your time, as well as your money. Realize that, despite our best intentions, not everything can or will be Norman Rockwell “perfect.”
  • Plan ahead. If an annual holiday tradition you’ve done in the past no longer fits your needs or lifestyle, please say “no, thank you.”
  • Be sure to delegate responsibilities to others. For example, instead of being stressed out by planning, cooking and serving large holiday meals by yourself, plan a casual event where everyone brings a dish to share.
  • It’s common during the holiday season for people to want to gather and celebrate with friends and family. Unfortunately, the temptation may be to drink too much alcohol. Limit alcohol consumption and remember that it’s okay if you don’t feel like celebrating this year.
  • Don’t overspend on holiday gifts. Instead of assuming a heavy holiday debt, consider giving gifts from the heart (this could involve giving of your time or talents after the holiday season), rather than overspending on material things that people may not need or even want.
  • It’s also important to prioritize your self-care routines during the holiday season. Reserve some personal time to relax and unwind, and be sure to include stress reducers such as exercise or meditation.

This time of year can be especially hard on anyone who has experienced a change of family status during the past year. Death, divorce, or moving away from family can substantially add to feelings of sadness and loneliness around the holidays.

The holidays cannot prevent sadness or loneliness from occurring. Anyone experiencing these emotions needs to realize that personal loss naturally brings about feelings of sadness and grief. Don’t expect the holidays to be the time that will cure all of your problems.

Sometimes the best way to handle our own sadness is to reach out to others who are suffering. Volunteering at a church or community organization to help those less fortunate during this holiday season can lift the spirits of all parties involved.

Finally, consider starting one new holiday tradition this year — something that excites you — remembering that simple things are often the best and turn out to be the most memorable.

Dr. Patricia Morales-Brost is a family medicine physician at the Aurora Health Center in Oshkosh, located at 414 Doctors Ct. Her office can be reached at 920-303-5100.

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