Banish Seasonal Depression – Anti-stress for a Merry Christmas

Banish Seasonal Depression – Anti-stress for a Merry Christmas

It’s that time of year again when we start to relax at work and yet we feel the pressure from all sides: the pressure to be happy. We are surrounded by the expectations of others to be optimistic and happy while trying to focus on work, home, and family, not to mention perhaps taking care of ourselves. Everywhere we look, TV commercials, radio music, store decorations, family and friends bombard us with messages of all that we must accomplish in a very short time by the end of December. Christmas music, loaded shelves, jostling others as we maneuver around stores, rough driving conditions, finding a parking spot, early sales with a couple of kids out of school tagging along, the good and not-so-good aspects of preparing for Visiting family contributes to the frenzy. There is gift buying, decorating the home and workplace, writing and sending letters or seasonal cards, overspending and excesses when we are urged to try the special treats from Aunt Bee or the scapegoat. How are we going to do everything? How can we please everyone? We are exhausted just thinking about it. We are stressed, exhausted, and have only just begun.

At the other end of the scale, the pressure to be happy can only accentuate your sense of loneliness. If you don’t feel any reason to celebrate, if in fact the last thing you want to do is join in on the false expressions of having fun, you may sink deeper into sadness.

Wherever you are on this scale, you have a severe case of seasonal stress. Here are ten tips to help you overcome stress and enjoy the holiday season:

1. Don’t expose yourself to unnecessary stress overload, such as running into debt, overeating, poor sleep due to worry, stress, especially the kind that will have lasting consequences.

2. Analyze. Do you have to do it all? Do you have to do it all? Should you do it at all? Ask yourself why you are receiving a gift or inviting someone. What would happen if you baked fewer cookies or bought something healthy like nuts or dried fruit? Are you trying to live up to someone else’s expectations, or are you setting your own too high? What would happen if you gave less or did less?

3. Make lists so you know exactly what you’re doing and when. Start with tasks that can be done well before October, like shopping for gifts and cards, wrapping paper, or ingredients and boxes for your baking needs.

4. Do your detective work early. Find out what some of your friends’ favorite charities and interests might be. Maybe you can make a contribution on their behalf. You’ll be helping others, making your friend feel good, and getting some of your taxes back.

5. While lying by the pool during your summer vacation, decide the maximum amount of money you will spend on gifts this year. If you can, calculate what you spent last year to use as a rough guide. Create a balance sheet and keep track of the remaining balance to help you control overspending. If you have money left over at the end of this exercise, splurge: get some for yourself or give to your favorite charity.

6. Rest. The structure is broken in your day. Take a deep breath, relax your jaw, open your fists.

7. Run errands earlier or later in the day to avoid crowds or when you can get around without the kids.

8. Beware of marketing traps. Because something is on sale, you must have it?

9. Keep an eye on your credit cards, PIN numbers, and those around you. Keep these personal numbers out of sight of those in line behind you. Be sure to retrieve all your cards and IDs after you make a purchase. Even better don’t charge. Have a set amount of cash with you when you go out, and pay cash instead. It’s a good lesson for kids who shop with you, too.

10. Instead of buying gifts, do something nice. Carolyn Schmatz of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (2008) found that helping others made people feel better than the people being helped. Help out at a soup kitchen or hospital on Christmas Day so the staff can spend it at home. Start a new habit. Instead of an office party, we take our treats to The Salvation Army at Christmas.

If all the frenzy this season is getting you down, write down all the reasons why you feel down. Then add all the reasons you have to be grateful. This second list will usually be longer. Do you have a roof over your head? Is your health good? Is there a friend somewhere you can make happy by calling him? Do you know someone who is worse off than you? Except in extraordinary circumstances, there are people with much bigger reasons than just making you feel bad.

Do something good. Invite others who may be alone over for a game of cards or a meal to cook together or just pick up the phone and say hello. Go to your local humane society and help out for a day.

If someone calls you or invites you or gives you something, allow yourself to accept the kindness unconditionally. This seems the hardest for most of us. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a very liberating feeling. It allows you to feel grateful and happy.

Regardless of what you think of the holiday season, it is all about taking a break at the end of a year to pause, be thankful for the good things, share and receive kindness and love. Never forget.

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