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Mental Health Expert Offers Tips for a Happier Holiday Season

With holiday celebrations to attend and family gatherings to prepare for, the winter season can be busy and joyful. But for many//, heightened expectations and the stresses of holiday events can increase anxiety and cause depression.

“While depression is one of the most common illnesses for adults, seasonal blues can be experienced by many who aren’t ‘clinically depressed’ or otherwise diagnosed,” said Waguih William IsHak, MD, medical director of the Adult Outpatient Psychiatry Service at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

According to IsHak, unrealistic expectations of family gatherings and parties often lead to disappointment and depression around the holidays. Financial stress, overbooked schedules and memories of “perfect” holidays past or lost loved ones can also all contribute to feelings of tension, anxiety and sadness.

“In terms of relationships, nothing magical ‘just happens’ during the holidays,” said IsHak. “If you don’t get along with your in-laws during the year, you’re probably not going to get along with them during the holiday season either. Understanding that before you go to visit them can make a big difference in how you’ll handle your feelings while you’re there."

Since holiday schedules are hectic and often include unstructured time, planning ahead and anticipating how you’ll handle difficult situations can have a big impact on how you experience the holiday season.

“If you plan ahead and focus on what you really enjoy about the season, you can spend more time ‘living in the moment,’ which is the key to getting the most out of each holiday experience, said IsHak.

IsHak offers several suggestions for coping and enjoying the holiday season more fully:

* Have realistic expectations of interactions you’ll be having with family and friends. Chances are that your relationships with people will have not changed much unless you’ve invested in improving those relationships dur
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