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To Your Health: Keep the ‘happy’ in holidays

FeliciHoustis licensed clinical professional counselor with Ingalls Behavioral Health Services.

Felicia Houston is a licensed clinical professional counselor with Ingalls Behavioral Health Services.

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Updated: January 13, 2013 6:18AM



With shopping lists and grocery lists, endless parties and merry-making, it’s no wonder that, along with all the joy they bring, the holidays also can create stress or cause depression for many of us.

The physical demands of preparing, the worries about finances and the reminder of loved ones who may no longer be with us can put a strain on anyone’s peace of mind.

Experts from Ingalls Behavioral Health Services offer tips on how to minimize the dizzying array of demands the season may bring:

Don’t abandon healthy habits. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.

Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.

Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Whenever possible, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.

Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings.

Set realistic expectations. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or use Skype.

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are. Wait until a more appropriate time for discussion. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry.

Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That will help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.

Learn to say no. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do and restore your inner calm.

Don’t feel pressured to host the holiday gathering. When asked to host, ask for time to think about it, process your feelings and acknowledge your feelings before you commit. You don’t have to host every year. Accept an invitation to go somewhere else and volunteer to bring a dish. Most importantly, figure out what works best for you and your family.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last two weeks or more, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

For more information, go to www.ingalls.org, and select Behavioral Health Services. If you need to speak to someone right away, a trained mental health professional is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call (708) 915-6411.

Felicia Houston is a licensed clinical professional counselor with Ingalls Behavioral Health Services.



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