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6 ways to ward off the holiday blues

If holiday shopping, cookie baking, travel plans making and other holiday hype have you feeling frazzled, you’re not alone. A lot of people are overwhelmed during this time of year, and some even dread the holidays.

The demands of the season often include shopping, cooking, travel, house guests, family reunions, office parties, more shopping and extra financial burdens. (Oy. I feel exhausted just thinking about it.) The holidays are supposed to inspire celebration, friends and fellowship, but if you’re not careful, the good times can quickly turn into huge burdens.

One of the main causes of the holiday blues is having unrealistic expectations. We sometimes set our hopes so high that the slightest setback nearly ruins things. This can be made worse with eating and drinking too much of the things that aren’t good for us and not sleeping enough.

Try following these six ways to ward off the holiday blues:

  1. Be practical. Remember that the holidays are not about everything being perfect. Keep expectations modest, and try not to compare yourself to others. Also, look back on past holidays. Weren’t the most memorable moments the ones that were not perfectly scripted or posed? So relax, and stay focused on the real meaning of the season – quality time with family and friends.
  2. Plan ahead. Procrastination – whether related to shopping or event planning – can make tasks seem more difficult. Draft a plan to accomplish what you need to do during the holidays, and stick to it. For example, plan to buy a certain number of gifts per week, and have your family pitch in with party planning.
  3. Time things wisely. Battling crowds in stores and on the roads can lead to frustration, anger and stress. Instead, take advantage of early hours at malls and other stores to get shopping done before work, and benefit from no crowds and no lines. If you are traveling, try to leave as early as possible to avoid holiday traffic jams, and make sure you carry food, water and an emergency kit just in case you do get stuck in traffic. This helps with keeping your eating habits in check, too.
  4. Be charitable. Some of the greatest joys can be found in giving, so look for ways to help out those who are less fortunate. There are many charitable giving opportunities during the holidays, like volunteering at a soup kitchen or hospital, making dinner for a shut-in or adopting a family who could use a little financial support.
  5. Just say no. During the holidays, it’s easy to feel pressure to overcommit to volunteering, entertaining and attending events and other activities. Know your limits, and make a commitment not to overextend yourself. Choose the activities that are most important, and decline others without guilt.
  6. Prepare for stress. If you know that you are prone to depression and anxiety, recognize that the stresses of the season, if left unchecked, could cause these feelings to escalate. Be sure to take appropriate measures to ease stress, such as setting aside “me” time for enjoying a relaxing bath or a soothing cup of tea, reading a book or another favorite pasttime. It’s also important to maintain a regular exercise regimen, get plenty of rest and eat and drink in moderation during the holidays. You will feel much better for it once the holidays are over.

We tend to want to overdo everything during the holidays. We need to resist this temptation, or we are surely leaving the door open for disappointment.

If the holiday blues strikes, we’re here for you

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About the author

Dr. Bernard Davidson

Dr. Davidson is a licensed psychologist whose clinical practice focuses on child, adolescent and family issues associated with relationship distress. He also provides individual psychotherapy to children and adults for problems associated with anxiety, depression, mood disturbance and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Davidson received his doctorate and Master of Social Work degree from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree from Farleigh Dickinson University. His current research interests focus on personality factors associated with medical student performance, as well as multiple family group programs as diversions to youth probation and factors associated with delinquency and prevention. He has received grant funding and is published in this area. He is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Division of Family Psychology. Prior to his appointment at Augusta University, he served as associate professor and associate chairperson for the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Texas Tech University from 1980 to 1988.