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Ronald R. Fieve, M.D, PC

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How to Stay Calm this Holiday Season

When we think of seasonal holidays, the first thing that usually comes to mind is time off from work, religious or spiritual festivals, or the opportunity to spend time with our loved ones. What many of us probably don’t realize, however, is that holiday anxieties are pretty common around this time of year. In fact, many of our patients here at the Fieve Depression Center report seasonal holidays to be some of the most stressful times of the year for them.

Some the reasons make obvious sense. One might have deadlines at work, and they’re forced to take time away from the office. For others, it may be the opposite. They may work in sales where the dreaded hordes of shoppers descend on their place of employment, and project their own stresses onto employees who aren’t really in a position able to defend themselves from abusive customers.

For others, it becomes the one time of year where social conventions are somewhat obligatory, such as trying to find the right gift, planning trips or dinners, or being forced to talk to family and friends with which one has a poor relationship. In some cases, the opposite occurs and those without loved ones to lean on end up dealing with loneliness, which can compound itself into depression.

While some of this is seemingly innocuous by themselves, multiple stressors compound their toll on our mental health. Here are a few ways to mitigate stresses of the holidays so that you can better enjoy this time of the year.

Adapt Your Lifestyle

One of the simplest and most effective methods for combatting stress is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Stress responses literally breakdown the cells in your body, and cause you to function at a lower capacity in all facets of your life.

  • Maintain a healthy diet through proper portion sizes, unsaturated fats, complex carbohydrates, quality proteins, and plenty of vegetables
  • Cut down on stimulants like caffeine, which actually initiate stress responses
  • Increase your activity levels, as endorphins lower your blood pressure and help break down stress hormones from your system
  • Get more rest
  • See your Psychotherapist for emotional support and stress coping skills

Plan Ahead and Re-Organize

Don’t leave your planning to the last minute. It’s no different than a stressful deadline at work, or a trying to write an essay the night before it’s due. Successful planning will help you avoid that feeling of analysis paralysis that sets in when you have so many decisions and so little time.

  • plan your shopping and dinners well in advance, and expect that something unexpected will come up
  • make a budget, and stick to it – the longer we procrastinate, the more likely we are to over-spend
  • prioritize your needs

Recognize Your Feelings and Be Mindful

Stress responses impair our ability to think properly. Take a moment, breathe, and focus on your feel-ings. Where exactly is your anxiety coming from? Is it:

  • comparison and unrealistic expectations?
  • decision overload?
  • poor sleeping/eating habits?
  • loneliness?

Until we identify the problem, it’s very difficult to address it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Sometimes it’s simply an issue of too many things happening at once, and an inability to cope. Other times, it really is biological in nature. If you find yourself in distress during this holiday season, and you’re unable to counter the feelings, you may benefit from talking to a professional.

At the Fieve Depression Center, we’ve been serving the New York City community for over three dec-ades. Please do not hesitate to contact us, if you feel that you’re unable to cope. Left untreated, anxiety and depression can, and will often, compound and worsen.

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