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Banish Seasonal Depression – Stress Busters For a Happy Holiday Season
It’s that time of the year when we start to feel the pressure to be happy even when we’re overwhelmed with work. We are surrounded by expectations to be optimistic and happy, not to mention busy with work, home, family, and self-care. Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with messages from TV commercials, radio music, store decorations, and everything from family and friends that needs to be done in a very short time by the end of December. Christmas music, loaded shelves, pushing others while maneuvering through stores, tricky driving situations, finding parking, early shopping with several out-of-school kids, and the good and not-so-good aspects of preparing for family visits all contribute. madness. There’s overspending and overspending, buying gifts, decorating your home or office, writing and sending seasonal letters and cards, calling out for auntie or patsy’s special treat. How do we do all this? How do we make everyone happy? We are exhausted just thinking about it. We’re stressed, tired, and haven’t even started.
At the other end of the scale, the pressure to be happy can accentuate your feelings of loneliness. If you don’t have any reason to celebrate, if the last thing you want to do is join in the fake pretense of having fun, you might end up feeling sadder.
Wherever you are on this scale, you have a serious case of seasonal stress. Here are ten tips to help you beat the stress and enjoy the holiday season.
1. Do not set yourself up for unnecessary stress overload, such as debt, overeating, restless sleep, stress, especially with long-term consequences.
2. Analyze. Do you have to do everything? Do you have to do everything? Should you do it at all? Ask yourself why you are getting a gift or inviting someone. What happens if you bake a few cookies or buy something healthy like nuts and dried fruit? Are you trying to live up to someone else’s expectations or setting yourself up too high? What happens if you give less or do less?
3. Make a list so you know exactly what you’re doing and when. Start with things you can do before October, such as buying gifts, cards, wrapping paper or ingredients, and boxes for your baking needs.
4. Do your detective work early. Find out what your friends’ favorite charities and interests might be. Perhaps you can contribute on their behalf. You will help others, please your friend and get your taxes back.
5. While lying by the pool on summer vacation, decide how much you’re going to spend on gifts this year. If possible, calculate what you spent last year and use that as a rough guide. Create a balance sheet and track balances to control overspending. If you have money left at the end of this exercise, spend it – get something for yourself or give it to your favorite charity.
6. Pause. Your day is breaking structure. Take a deep breath, relax your jaw, and unclench your fists.
7. Do your homework in the morning or evening when there aren’t too many people or when you can hang around without the kids.
8. Beware of marketing traps. Do you have to have something because it’s on sale?
9. Keep an eye on credit cards, PIN numbers and people around you. Keep these private numbers away from the people behind them. Make sure you get all your cards and IDs back after you’ve made a purchase. It is better not to charge. Take a certain amount of cash on a trip and pay in cash instead. It’s also a good lesson for the kids who are shopping with you.
10. Do something good instead of getting a gift. Carolyn Schmatz (2008) of the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that helping others makes the person helped feel better. Help out at a soup kitchen or hospital on Christmas Day so the staff can spend it at home. Start a new habit. At Christmas, instead of an office party, we took some good food to the Salvation Army.
If all the craziness of this season is getting you down, write down all the reasons you’re depressed. 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? Do you have a friend you can cheer up over the phone? Do you know someone who is worse off than you? Except in exceptional circumstances, there are far more people than you to be depressed about.
Do something good. Invite other people who might be alone to play cards or eat together, or just pick up the phone and say hello. Visit your local humane society and help out for a day.
If someone calls you, invites you, or gives you something, allow yourself to accept this kindness unconditionally. This seems to be the hardest thing for most of us to do. Once mastered, it’s a very liberating feeling. It allows you to feel grateful and happy.
Regardless of what you think of the holiday season, it’s about taking a break at the end of the year, giving thanks for the good things, and sharing and receiving kindness and love. Never forget.
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