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By Charlotte Smith

The winter holiday season is not a happy time of year for many. The celebrations such as Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year may be a fun time of the year filled with parties and social gatherings with family and friends. However many folks find this time of year filled with anxiety, loneliness, sadness, and stress.

The shorter days and colder nights don’t make it easier for people with emotional and mental stresses. You can improve your mood by practicing self-care during the holidays.

According to medicinenet.com, anxiety is a feeling of apprehension and fear characterized by physical symptoms such as:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of stress

Sadness is a truly personal feeling. What makes one person feel sad may not affect another person. Typical sources of holiday sadness include

  • stress,
  • fatigue,
  • unrealistic expectations,
  • over-commercialization,
  • financial stress,
  • the inability to be with one’s family and friends, and
  • in addition to sadness, many people feel holiday anxiety or stress, particularly when they feel unable to cope with the demands upon them.

Here are some tips for people who are experiencing these feelings and emotions:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a regular sleep pattern.
  • Start an exercise program. According to the kept Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, as little as 30-minutes of cardiovascular exercise can provide an immediate mood boost similar to the effects of an antidepressant medication.
  • Joining a support group where you talk to people with similar experiences to yours can also help.
  • Begin a new tradition- take a road trip, make a jar to drop notes of things you are thankful for in throughout the season; then read them, visit the nursing homes and read to the elderly, go caroling, etc.
  • Try planning a family outing or vacation, instead of spending the holidays at home. Visit a place you have never been, go to a place with a warmer climate, go to light show.
  • Don’t give in to holiday pressures. Instead of giving gifts; give hugs, instead of decorating your home take flowers to someone in the hospital, instead of going to the party; to the children’s home and help serve food.
  • Volunteer – Helping others can also be very helpful for you, too. For example, you might try: working at a soup kitchen, organizing a gift drive, helping your neighbor with a yard or house task
  • Get Back to Nature – Take a nature walk in the woods or park. Go for a paddle boat ride. Watch the sun rise or set. Many people relax and feel better when they are feeling overwhelmed after long walks or enjoying nature.
  • Remember, you are not alone. Many face emotions and mental health issues. Help is out there. If you or someone you know needs help dealing with the stress of the holidays, their addictions or mental health issues call 1.800.913.6109 (TTY: 1-888-819-5112) for help with non-life-threatening crisis situations, services, referrals and scheduling outpatient appointments.
You may also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
For life-threatening emergencies, call 911.

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