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Don't Invite Holiday Stress Into Your Home
Date:12/25/2009

Toned-down expectations may lead to more joy, less anxiety, experts say

FRIDAY, Dec. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Between hurrying to score the last parking spot at the mall and preparing your home for out-of-town guests, the holiday season can be mentally exhausting.

For women especially, emotions tend to run high as they put pressure on themselves to create picture-perfect gatherings, while holding down jobs and taking care of children.

"During the holidays, our lives become even more stressful as we try to juggle our usual responsibilities with extra holiday preparation and complicated family dynamics," Dr. Eric Marcus, a psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, said in a news release from the hospital.

If your household resembles the idealized 1950s' television-version of a family, all of the craziness will culminate in your clan gathered at the hearth, merrily singing Christmas carols. If your family is closer to normal, some tension and conflict will arise during all that family togetherness.

To minimize stress, Dr. Margaret Altemus, a psychiatrist and director of the Payne Whitney Women's Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, suggests making some time for yourself during the holidays.

Being alone, even for a half hour or so, can help you feel calmer. If your in-laws have parked themselves on your sofa and show no signs of leaving until after New Year's, go out by yourself. Take a walk or get some exercise. Physical activity helps alleviate stress and the sunlight can help lift your mood, Altemus said.

Time for yourself may also mean taking time to be with your friends, who may not push those buttons in the same way your relatives can.

The holidays can also be difficult on those who feel isolated. If you are feeling alone, seek out the support of your community, religious or social services. Getting
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