By KATHY SMITH
Depression and stress can occur anytime throughout our lives. For many people the holidays and the winter months can be the most difficult. There can be many causes including too many expectations, responsibilities, commercialization, and the death or health of loved ones.
Being realistic and patient, planning and seeking support can help prevent one from being stressed and feeling down. Here are some tips from Kelly Nix, Family Life Extension Specialist from West Virginia Extension.
• Recognize how you deal with stress. Determine if you are relying on unhealthy behaviors including smoking, drinking or eating to manage your stress. Is this a behavior you depend up on year around or is it specific to the holidays?
• Take care of yourself. Keep your mind and body primed to deal with stress during the holidays by taking care of you. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings and acknowledge them. Engage in holiday activities that you like and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. Eat healthy. Make sure you take time to rest and sleep.
• Manage your finances. Decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items before you go shopping. If possible, donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts, or start a family gift exchange in place of spending more than you can afford on gifts for everyone.
• Learn to say no. People will understand if you can’t do a certain activity or attend an event. If you say yes only to the thing you want to and should do, you will feel less resentful, bitter and overwhelmed.
• Ask for support. Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens your resilience and ability to manage stress. Use the holidays to reconnect with friends and family. Strengthen your support network. If you feel overwhelmed by stress, then consider seeking professional help. Psychologists and counselors are trained to understand the connection between the mind and body. They can offer strategies to help you manage stress, change unhealthy behaviors and address emotional issues.
• Change one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors develop over time. Replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and focus on changing one behavior at a time.
There are several support groups that meet during the holidays that helps people dealing with depression and stress. There is a group that meets at First United Methodist Church in Weatherford on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. There is also a Blue Christmas Gathering each Monday in December at Couts United Methodist Church in Weatherford.