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Beating the Blues: How to Make the Holidays Less Stressful
By North Carolina Cooperative Extension

The holidays are supposed to be a time of peace, love and joy for everyone. But if that’s true, then why do so many of us wind up in early January feeling a lot like the Grinch before his change of heart?

The truth is that, too often, we put so much pressure on ourselves to create the "perfect?" family occasion – complete with lovely decorations, ideal gifts and sparkling parties – that we wind up with a case of severe seasonal "blues" instead.

"The end of the year brings all kinds of increased demands for shopping, parties and family reunions that can be rife with stress," says Wayne Matthews, PhD., an associate professor in Family and Consumer Sciences at North Carolina State University and a human development specialist for North Carolina Cooperative Extension. "Sometimes emotional disappointments combine with a physical reaction caused by excess fatigue and stress to lead to a post-holiday letdown."

The holiday blues can strike anyone, says Matthews. But he adds that there are many ways we can help ourselves avoid stress overload. Following are several tips for heading off the holiday "blues" before they hit:

Keep your plans realistic. Consider just how much time you really have and then give yourself permission to say NO! when your own demands – and those of others – get out of control.

Ask for help. Sharing tasks allows everyone to feel like a part of the celebration and fun.

Resist comparisons. Your friends and relatives may be able to do or give more, but more isn’t always better!

Avoid overspending. With all the hype and hurry, it’s easy to get overextended. But when you spend more than you can afford, you prolong the stress of the holidays into the new year.

Make health and exercise a priority. You’ll be better able to cope with a more active schedule if you keep yourself healthy. And exercise not only allows you to sleep better, it also makes you more alert and efficient during the day.

And finally, Matthews adds, "Don’t forget to make time for yourself. This really is a season that reminds us to focus on peace, love, and joy, so make time to really celebrate."

Brought to you by North Carolina Cooperative Extension, The Department of Family & Consumer Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina State University. Copyright 2004, NC State University. For more information, visit: www.family-info.info

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