December 16, 2009

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of


MONTGOMERY – Thoughts of the upcoming holidays usually bring a smile to most people’s face when they think of the family gatherings, food, and presents that will be in abundance. But some may feel stressed or depressed for a host of reasons surrounding the holidays. However, with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress and depression that sometimes accompany the holidays.

Recognize Holiday Triggers
According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the most important things to do is learning to recognize some of the more common holiday triggers that lead to stress and depression. This will help you feel more in control and be prepared to disarm them.
  • Relationships. They can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time, but tensions are sometimes heightened during the holidays. Family misunderstandings and conflicts can intensify. On the other hand, facing the holidays without a loved one can leave you feeling lonely and sad.
  • Finances. In this time of economic uncertainty, everyone is feeling the pinch. With the added expenses of gifts, travel, food, and entertainment, the holidays can put a strain on your budget and peace of mind.
  • Physical demands. The extra parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, and entertaining, can leave many wiped out. Being exhausted increases stress and makes you more susceptible to colds and other unwelcome guests.

Tips to Combat Holiday Stress and Depression
These practical tips from the Mayo Clinic and Mental Health America can help you find the balance you need to prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. Remember that the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely. There is room for these feelings to be present, and it is okay to express your feelings. Conversely, allow yourself to also experience joy and happiness as you celebrate special times.
  • Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Know what you can and cannot do. Try to set realistic goals, prioritize the important activities, plan accordingly, and pace yourself.
  • Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. Be open to creating new ways to celebrate the holidays.
  • Reach out. Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, contact someone you haven’t heard from in a while, and try volunteering some of your time to help others. It will lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  • Stick to a budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Before gift and food shopping, decide how much you can afford and then stick to it. You can also enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations.
  • Make some time for yourself. Recharge your batteries and let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.

Dr. Richard Powers, chief medical director for ADMH offers some additional tips related to diet, exercise and sleep.
  • Consider your dietary targets for the day. But do not become distressed over dietary failures from the previous day. You have the entire next year to work off those extra pounds.
  • Make a resolution to get exercise on every day that you are off from work. Walking is fine, especially if you walk more than 45 minutes per day.
  • Get enough sleep especially when you are off work and avoid heavy drinking late at night or the use of caffeinated beverages after 5 p.m. Both alcohol and calories disrupt your sleep. Being well rested helps you to have positive relationships with your family.

Dr. Powers states, “Experts like myself remind everybody that you might get depressed or stressed out during the holidays; no big news flash to most people. This year, ADMH encourages everyone to take a proactive, positive approach towards the holidays. Decide whether you want to be in control of your emotions or if your emotions will be in control of you.”


For more information about the Mayo Clinic, visit

For more information about Mental Health America, visit

For information on mental health services in the state of Alabama, visit or contact the Division of Mental Illness Services at 334-242-3200.


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