We're starting a five-week period called "the holidays." We're supposed to look forward to the holidays and hope that they will be a time of happiness, friendliness, fellowship, and harmony. Yet often our anticipation and excitement turns into feelings of depression, commonly called holiday blues. Symptoms can include headaches, insomnia, uneasiness, anxiety, sadness, intestinal problems, and unnecessary conflict with family and friends.

Part of what happens in the holiday season, in terms of mood changes and anxiety, may occur because of the stressfulness of holiday events. Overdrinking, overeating, and fatigue may also cause it. The demands of the season are many: shopping, cooking, travel, houseguests, family reunions, office parties, more shopping and extra financial burden.

Here are some tools to get through the holiday season happily, as well as ways to prevent problems and misery for yourself and your loved ones.

1. Be reasonable with your schedule. Do not overbook yourself into a state of exhaustion--this makes people cranky, irritable, and depressed.

2. Decide upon your priorities and stick to them. Organize your time.

3. Remember, no matter what our plans, the holidays do not automatically take away feelings of aloneness, sadness, frustration, anger, and fear.

4. Be careful about past stress and feelings about holidays past, related to holidays past. Declare a 30 day truce with whichever family member or friend you are feeling past resentments. The Holidays are about forgiving and moving forward not bringing up that turkey dinner from 5 years ago.

5. Don't expect the holidays to be just as they were when you were a child. They NEVER are. YOU are not the same as when you were a child, and no one else in the family is either.

6. Feeling like you are under scheduled or under planned for the holidays? Volunteer to serve holiday dinner at a homeless shelter. Work with any number of groups that help underprivileged or hospitalized children at the holidays. There are many, many opportunities for doing community service.

7. Plan unstructured, low-cost fun holiday activities: window-shop and look at the holiday decorations. Look at people's Christmas lighting on their homes, take a trip to the countryside, etc.--the opportunities are endless.

8. If you drink, do not let the holidays become a reason for over-indulging and hangovers. This will exacerbate your depression and anxiety. Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol is a depressant. People with depression shouldn't drink alcohol"

9. Give yourself a break; create time for yourself to do the things you love and need to do for your physical and mental wellness: aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, spiritual practices, taking long fast walks or any activity that calms you down and gives you a better perspective on what is important in your life.

10. Most of all, if you find yourself feeling blue just remember: The choice is always yours: The sky is partly sunny, and the glass is half full and revel in our gratitude for our bounty, health, hope, and our courage to face each day with hope and determination.

11. Remember that the best solution for holiday blues is to do something special for someone else.

12. Give gifts with meaning don’t run around the store to buy things just to buy them then have buyer’s remorse, the best gifts have thought, make personalized homemade gifts that will stay in the family for years.

13. Give the less fortunate, one way my family honors those who have passed on is by buying a gift in their name to put in toys for tots. My dad loved Trains and Disney so we always put Disney and train related gifts in the box, this helps us keep him around for the holidays.

14. Adopt a family or take a suggestion off a giving tree take your kids to buy these gifts to teach them the meaning of Christmas not the receiving or getting meaning, you will see a difference in your kids.

15. Remember the holidays are the same time every year, start earlier if needed, by saving money, so when the holiday season is here you don’t have to choose gifts over paying rent it will help with the stress.

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

~ Dr Seuss, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas~

Happy Holiday season from the staff of Great Lakes TTC.

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