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March Mania

Finding joy in the holidays

Editor's note: According to the National Mental Health Association, depression peaks over the holidays. The severity of the problem varies widely but it's commonly called the holiday blues. That's why the newspaper is printing this advice from Lisa Voigt, a clinical psychologist who works at Lakeland Mental Health Center in Alexandria.

The holidays are a time when people are expected to be cheerful and jolly. Many people struggle to create "the perfect holiday experience." Realistically, it can be a time of loneliness, loss and hardship. So, how do people not just "survive" the holiday season, but thrive throughout it? Here are a few ideas to ponder.

Start by being intentional. What is essential for you to experience this holiday season? Is it important to celebrate Jesus' birthday? Do you want to experience a genuine sense of togetherness with others? Is it important to create treasured memories? Do you want to generously provide a gift to someone close to you, or a stranger in need? Would it help to avoid feeling compelled to live up to every suggestion society identifies as "essential" to experiencing joy over the holidays? Asking yourself why you have done something a particular way can help you decide whether to keep, or let go of traditions. Clarifying our goals helps us to be intentional in carrying them out, rather than being swept away by what others might see as important.

It is much easier to maintain a sense of purpose and to accept a sense of peace if we are living balanced lives. Are you eating and sleeping well? Choosing a healthy snack before a Christmas party might decrease hunger and consumption of too many Lit'l Smokies, cookies, or over indulgence in fruitcake. Avoid excess anything. Let go of nagging worries by writing them down before bed. If these fears are still important enough to deal with tomorrow, they will still be there. You will be more effective in dealing with them with a good night's sleep.

Find ways to move more. Dance in the living room, walk though your neighborhood looking for Christmas lights, or mall walk, leaving your money at home. Are you spending enough time nurturing your spiritual health and inviting peace, love and joy into your life? Some reverent quiet time might strengthen your faith and increase your awe of the meaning of the season.

Are you as connected with others as you would like to be? For some, the holidays bring back memories of significant losses. Some people experience a sense of distance, hurt and heartache with family members. Ask yourself with whom you would like to share this holiday. Although this may change a holiday tradition, it could be for the better. Might you share the holiday with friends, serving people in the community, or possibly enjoying it alone? If you anticipate tension with someone, setting limits can be helpful. Make your requests known before the big event so that everyone can be clear on holiday expectations.

For so many individuals and families, money is very tight. Ask yourself if you are spending within your means. Are you allowing holiday spending, or lack thereof, to interfere with celebrating in a way that is important to you? Create a budget and stick to it. Keeping lists of gifts may decrease purchasing "just one more thing" when a limit has been reached. Be satisfied with what you can share and the resources you have, no matter how big or how small.

There is community help available for a wide variety of needs, and the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties may be a helpful resource. They may be reached at (320) 763-4840, or online at

Over the holidays, utilizing these tips can help keep balance in our lives. May you find a sense of peace, wonder, and joy this holiday season.