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How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On

Expert offers tips for coping with common scenarios

SATURDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- With pressures from the economic hard times, dysfunctional families and countless other factors, the holidays can contribute to emotional stress and depression.

But there are ways to cope with the various scenarios that people experience at this time of year, according to Dr. Laura Miller, director of women's mental health in the psychiatry department at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

For instance, she suggests:

If seasonal depression gets worse in fall and winter ...

  • A therapeutic light box, which provides powerful light beyond what you can come up with yourself, might help in the morning. A doctor can help obtain one.
  • Exercise can also make you feel better.

If you're busy and stressed out ...

  • Take time for fun activities such as walking, meditating, exercising and hanging out with friends.
  • Consider buying prepared foods instead of trying to make everything yourself.
  • In general, reduce the number of activities that are more stressful than joyful.

If you can't afford the gifts you'd like to give ...

  • Remember that people who care about you will be more interested in the fact that you thought of them than in the cost of your gift. Find a poem someone would enjoy and frame it. Or, bake something special for someone.

If you get anxious at social gatherings ...

  • Self-help workbooks can help you develop skills to conquer social anxiety. Start now, though; don't wait until the day of the event.

If you've lost a loved one, and the holidays are especially tough ...

  • Find a way to remember your loved one. Play the person's favorite music, for instance, or visit his or her grave, making sure to bring along family or friends who can help you cope.

More information

Mental Health America has more on coping with everyday stress.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Brigham and Women's Hospital, news release, Dec. 1, 2009

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