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These are the best weeks of the year: Spending quality time with our families in beautifully decorated homes and stores, dreaming of a gourmet dinner, and that moment when the kids will run down the stairs to gifts wrapped and sitting around the tree. For many, this is how the holiday season looks and feels. But for others, this is the most stressful and depressing time of year. Here are a few steps to help deal with this in a new healthy manner which you can use in real time during the holiday season.

Generally stress is something we all deal with in our lives throughout the year. During the holiday season we add many more stress factors, one being the fact that expectations may not match outcomes. Families may be more strapped financially to give the type of gifts their families expect. Maybe this year will be the year where you spend less because your bills are higher and you put off that family holiday vacation because of work or finances. This all puts stress on the individual as well as the entire family. Here is the main issue with stress. When you try to ignore stress and say to yourself, “Oh this is just how life is,” or, “I’m really stressed but I’m sure it will go away itself,” those two thoughts just aren’t true. Life shouldn’t be overwhelmingly stressful and it won’t go away on its own. If you let stress run itself it will turn into depression and depression unchecked and left alone can develop into clinical depression, which would then need care in a therapeutic setting. Depression is something that more than 70% of people feel or deal with at certain times in their lives. If depression last more than two weeks it sometimes is considered clinical depression and clinical depression left alone is very dangerous. The best news with depression is that if treated by a professional, it’s something an individual can overcome and thereby live a very different life. For years in my practice, I’ve helped clients overcome depression and what I see on the first day is someone who comes in who feels like he or she can’t handle life anymore. Seeking help is the biggest change a person can make for himself and those around him.

We all need to come to one reality that will put our minds at rest. Our families are strong if we make them strong regardless of how much we spend on toys and gifts. Reducing personal stress to live up to standards only you are putting on yourself is a great start. This will lead to your children seeing you as a stronger, happier parent and in return your children will see happier parenting. With that circular therapeutic technique you’ve already begun to start the process of reducing stress not only for yourself but everyone else in your life. We are living in a society that shows us everyday how that new car with the big red bow in your driveway would be the perfect holiday gift. For many this is the way the holiday season looks, but for others this is not reality. For some this is only a dream and a dream that is not reality (maybe not this year). Let’s all calm down and realize what true happiness is: a stress free life. This is the best gift you can give yourself.

First, acknowledge what’s realistic for you personally. Secondly, live in a manner that represents that realistic lifestyle. The third step would be to sit down with your spouse and family members to hear what they are feeling; start a conversation with them so this is an open area to explore. This puts everyone on the same page with the understanding that we all face these stresses at this time of year. It’s very normal to feel this way. Normalizing the situation is always a great step when it comes to dealing with stress and depression. The fourth way to move on with stress is to address and resolve this for good. Finding a professional psychotherapist who understands you and understands your needs would be a great final step. A therapist can help you with these steps and can achieve this as a life change. You will have the tools to make your life better, and not only during the holiday seasons, but make life more enjoyable year round. These stressors are part of a lifestyle and a lifestyle that we need to change to make this a better you. That can be the best gift you’ve ever given yourself during the holiday season. What I see in my practice this time of year are people who really want to make a change, and a change for good. Sometimes it takes events, holidays, or something in your life to finally make that step. Please take this time to make these changes for yourself and your family. This is the most important thing you can do, and the most important thing you can do for your future. I wish everyone a happy holiday season and the best change for your life: a healthier view of yourself and your future.

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