The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Getting Through The Holidays Stress-Free
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Although we often think of the holidays as a happy and festive time, it can also be a time of stress. Expectations run high, and when they go unfulfilled it can be a huge letdown. Being prepared for the good and the bad that the holidays bring is essential in staying mentally healthy through the winter months.   Here are a few tips to prepare for the holiday season:

1.  Recognize cycles
Think back to previous holiday seasons and try to pinpoint from where some of the disappointment or stress came. Identifying cycles or triggers that may repeat themselves can help to be more prepared in handling those situations with resilience and grace.

2.  Realistic goals
Set realistic goals for yourself and those you love. Asking too much from yourself or others will leave you feeling let down and upset. Remember, friends and family are not trying to let you down; they are just caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season as well.

3.  Eat and exercise
The holiday’s sweet and savory temptations can sneak up on you around the holidays, but don’t forget about your fruits and veggies! Maintain a healthy and balanced diet to prevent overindulgences. Additionally, staying active and getting outside will help fight the holiday blues. Use this time to invite a friend to the park or set up a gym date.

4.  Stick to normal routines
Try not to veer too much off your normal course from week to week. A steady routine keeps you up and running smoothly. It provides a sense of normalcy when the excitement of the season starts to overwhelm.

5.  Volunteer or give back
Many people find joy in giving their time to serve others around the holiday season. Whether your time is spent at a soup kitchen, making donations or helping around your church, giving joy to others can inspire it in yourself as well.

6.  Stay connected
When the stress of the holiday season creeps in, reach out to those you love and your supportive community. Call up a friend just to talk, or seek comfort from those who share your faith and can reassure you that you are not alone.

Reaching out to family and friends is always great, but it’s important to realize when to seek professional help. When the holiday blues switch from moments of stress and anxiety to longer, lower periods that affect your daily mood and activities, it might be time to reach out to a mental health professional. Persistent sad, anxious or irritated moods, extreme sleep changes, feeling hopeless or worthless, loss of enjoyment in friends, family, or activities and thoughts of suicide or self-harm are a few indications to find professional help.

The holidays are meant to be fun and joyous, so take steps to prepare for the change of season! Acknowledge there might be stress and plan ahead for it. It can make all the difference as you switch gears in anticipation of sweater weather, holiday jingles, and pumpkin spice lattes.

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