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How to Reduce Stress During the Holidays

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The holidays may be joyful, but for many, they also can be stressful. While many studies have found that it’s a myth that suicide rates rise during the holidays, it’s still true that many people suffer increased depression and anxiety.

Here are 10 tips for lowering stress so you can enjoy the holidays:

1. Focus on what’s important: Let go of your image of the “perfect holiday.” Focus on what the holidays really mean to you, whether it’s religious significance, family togetherness or reflection time. Put that front and center in your holiday plans

2. Connect with others: Don’t spend the holidays isolated and alone. Spend time with family and friends, or call your local United Way chapter to volunteer.

3. Divide and conquer: Whether it’s a big holiday meal or buying presents, don’t think you have to do it all. Part of the fun of a family gathering – and the way memories are made – is that everyone chips in. Think potluck, and give everyone a job in preparing and cleaning up after the meal. Draw names instead of buying presents for everyone in the family.

4. Exercise and eat well: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 2-1/2 hours of exercise per week for adults and at least 1 hour per day for kids and teens. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and avoid too much sugar, fat or salt.

5. Avoid too much alcohol: Alcohol can contribute to anxiety, depression, sleep problems, lowered energy and weight gain. It can make any problems you encounter around the holidays – sadness over a death, fighting with your partner, memories of painful childhood experiences – even worse. Don’t drink too much, and if you do, seek professional help.

6. Get enough sleep: Getting a good night’s sleep can keep you healthy and happy. Yet about 29 percent of adults get less than seven hours of sleep a night, the CDC says. Make sure you turn in for the night at a reasonable hour.

7. Take a break: Go for a walk, get a massage, visit a friend or walk the dog. Disconnect yourself from electronics – the TV, computer and cell phone. Take time to relax and recharge by pulling yourself away from all the hustle and bustle.

8. Set a budget: With the bombardment of advertising and markdowns, it’s easy to overspend during the holidays. If you don’t set a budget, you could find yourself in the hole come January.

9. Mix it up: You may look forward to holiday traditions, but what about doing something completely new? Take a vacation and spend your holidays someplace else. Drop costly, time-consuming activities – over-decorating the house or sending out cards – and spend time on fun, cheap activities with family members and friends: ice skating, caroling or hiking.

10. Get help if you need it: Seek professional help if you find yourself increasingly depressed or anxious. Some of the warning signs include fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, overeating or appetite loss, or feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.