PARKERSBURG - For people dealing with stress, forgetting those troubles over the holiday season may be easier with some advice from local experts.
Officials said stress has been implicated as a culprit in many physical and emotional illnesses. The intensity of the worry can increase over the giving season, they said.
Darby Stevens, a therapist with Westbrook Health Services, said it is important to remember a few tips for handling stress over the holiday season. Stevens said one of the biggest difficulties for people over the holidays is the ideal that they have to strive for perfection.
"Stop trying to find the 'perfect' gift; they do not exist," said Stevens. "Make the holidays what you want it to be for you and your family and friends."
In addition, offering simple advice such as remembering to get enough rest and taking care of the body is also relevant.
"Watch what you eat and drink, try not to over-indulge," she said. "Get enough exercise."
Stevens said avoiding shopping during highly trafficked times and planning at least one fun event over the holidays can benefit one's physical and emotional state.
"Lower your expectations of what the holiday's 'should' be for you," she said. "Be realistic about what you can actually accomplish."
According to research done by the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical practice and medical research group in Rochester, Minn., treating stress over the holidays can be a difficult task to face alone. They offered some tips on how to rid the holiday season of depression and anxiety:
* Acknowledge your feelings: The thought of not spending that first holiday with a loved one can be difficult and it's okay to take time to cry and express feelings, they said.
* Reach out: Studies show that seeking community, religious or social events when feeling alone can offer support and companionship. Volunteering is also a way to keep from feeling lonely.
* Be realistic: The holiday season does not have to be a perfect time of year, families can grow and traditions can often change. Studies showed it beneficial to hold onto customs and exchange emails or phone calls with loved ones who may not make it to a holiday function.
* Set differences aside: Unnecessary feuds between family members can lead to distress, they said.
* Stick to a budget: Planning how much to spend when shopping for gifts and food can relieve stress. Before trying to buy happiness with gifts, find other ways to give to family members like donating to a charity in their name or giving homemade gifts.
* Plan ahead: By picking specific days for baking, visiting friends, planning menus and making shopping lists, people can prevent last minute scrambling to buy forgotten items.
* Learn to say no: Saying yes to too much can leave people feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand not being able to participate in every project or activity during the holiday season.
* Don't abandon healthy habits: The holidays should not be a free-for-all when it comes to food. Overindulgence only adds to stress and guilt, studies show.
* Take a breather: Spend a few minutes alone with no distractions.
* Seek professional help if needed: Despite efforts, people might still feel sad and anxious. If unable to sleep, irritable, hopeless or unable to face routine chores, seek the advice of a doctor or mental health professional.
Experts with WebMD found staying stress-free can reduce risks of many conditions. Less stress can help disorders including heart attacks, skin conditions, digestive disorder flare-ups, immune disorders, anxiety, depression, insomnia, working pain due to arthritis and back pain or muscle spasms.
Stevens said it's also good to try to do something different, including taking small or large trips to make it out of the house. She said sometimes doing something new can help.
"The benefits are to be able to appreciate what it is you believe this time of year means to you and to be able to enjoy it," she said. "I'm not saying to do away with tradition, but sometimes shaking it up a bit can add to that specialness."
Stevens said her main goal when speaking with clients is to assist them with managing their emotions. Making good choices and being effective about choosing what to do over the holidays can remove the heavy emphasis of perfection, she said.