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Tis the season to be jolly, right? Well, let’s see… with stressors such as a lack of time, money worries, over-commercialization, gift-giving pressure, shopping and crowds, family commitments (ahem… in-laws… need I say more), back-to-back parties, and the hassles of travel, can one honestly say it’s the most wonderful time of the year? The holiday blues are a real thing and according to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people said their stress level increases during the holidays. There also seems to be so much pressure for us to be overly jolly during this time of year, however, those expectations seem to be unrealistic and can also lead to stress (even amongst children).

Here are a few tips that may help avoid having a “blue Christmas”:

Get some sunlight. Spending time outdoors in the sun or sitting for some time near a sunny window is proven to help relieve SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) — a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. SAD is more common in women and young people. Getting outside for a brisk half-hour walk every day helps alleviate SAD symptoms and holiday stress.

Do less, enjoy more. During all the holiday hustle and bustle, it’s easy to get swept up and feel overwhelmed. Learn how to take care of yourself by just saying no. Indulging in moderation and picking only a few favorite activities helps as well.

Know your spending limit. The holidays can be so expensive, and many people just accumulate more debt this time of year. Setting a budget and sticking to it is key in eliminating financial stress. Bottom line…don’t spend more than you planned. Also, giving more meaningful and personal gifts is way more impactful and doesn’t have to cost a lot.

Practice gratitude and generosity. Many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. Consciously reflect on all the blessings in your life. Gratitude has incredible effects from improving our mental health to boosting our relationships with others. Grateful people also tend to show gratitude more freely towards others through acts of generosity. Because it just feels so good to see someone happy without expecting anything in return.

Too much togetherness. One of the biggest challenges is how to attend everything. But it’s important to remember that you don’t have to attend every party or event. Learning to say no (sound familiar?) goes a long way in handling holiday over-scheduling.

Not enough togetherness. The holidays can be a very difficult time for people that have lost loved ones. In addition, empty nesters and the elderly may be particularly vulnerable. Remember to be good to yourself. Self-care can go a long way in easing your solitude a bit while lifting your spirits as well. Try to reach out to people around you as well. Whether it’s chatting with a neighbor, writing holiday cards, or calling an old friend you haven’t heard from in a while…connecting can help you feel less lonely. Of course, if you need additional help, don’t hesitate to get support if you need it.

When all else fails… laugh it off! Instead of locking yourself in the bathroom with a bottle of wine, try to maintain a sense of humor through it all! Watch funny movies, play holiday games, tell a few jokes and remember to not take yourself too seriously. Sharing laughter helps people realize that the most important part of the holiday is the gift of being together. And that really is all that matters.

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