Realistic expectations will allow Christmas spirit to shine through

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It may not be easy to have a "Merry Christmas" if you're facing it alone or more worried about keeping food on the table than whether you're going to receive the latest gizmo as a gift.

The holidays can be a stressful time, even in good times. The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions and house guests may prove to be just to much. Unfortunately, many of us respond by drinking, eating too much or too little, leading to headaches and perhaps difficulty sleeping.

Even if we have a good holiday, the days following can be tough as we respond to emotional disappointments and the extra fatigue and stress.

But there are steps we can take, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some of their tips:

* Limit your drinking.

* Don't force a festive feeling. Accept your inner experience, and don't be afraid to let people know about your needs.

* Know your spending limit and stick to it. Enjoy free holiday activities such as looking at holiday decorations and window shopping. Be open and honest with those around you, and if you need to confront someone with a problem, begin your sentences with "I feel."

If someone else is experiencing the holiday blues:

* Try to involve that person in holiday activities, but don't be forceful.

* Be a good listener. If people express suicidal thoughts or feel depressed, hopeless or worthless, be supportive. Let them know you are there for them and are willing to help them seek professional help.

* Never issue challenges or dares.

* Familiarize yourself with resources such as mental health centers, counseling centers and hotlines.

* If the depressed person is chronically ill, express that you understand that the holidays do not cure the illness.

* Be aware that holidays can be difficult for people, especially what is realistic and what is not.

So let's all do our best to have a happy holiday, but let's accept things the way they are and help others to do the same. That's the only way to leave room for the true Christmas spirit to shine through.

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