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Avoid the holiday blues and reduce stress

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year but between the shopping, the cooking, the parties, the traveling- they can also be the most stressful time of year.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you're not alone; eight in 10 Americans anticipate stress during the holiday season and this stress can lead to depression

While we're surrounded by bright lights and Christmas cheer, this time of year many of us suffer from the holiday blues.

Chris Donevant-Haines, Counseling Services Assistant Director at CCU says there are signs of depression to look out for this time of year, "Remembering losses, so sometimes grief comes back up. Feeling overwhelmed, loss of motivation- you know there's just too much to do. Too many things to purchase."

And too many times, money is on our minds. Seventy-five percent of Americans feel the same way, saying money is a significant source of stress.

Stress is one of the top negative emotions during the holiday season, along with irritability and fatigue.

The holiday hustle and bustle on the roads and in stores can lead to this exhaustion, along with working long hours and just feeling like there's not enough time to get everything done.

Experts recommend tackling your stressors and focusing on what the holiday season is about.

"You're only one person, we're only capable of doing what we're able to do. Set realistic goals for yourself. There are only so many hours in the day, you know, moderation is key," says Donevant-Haines.

One way to cope with stress is to get outside. Experts say Vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression and sunlight is a natural way to absorb Vitamin D.

Donevant-Haines says the best way to have a stress free season is to set realistic goals for yourself-

"How much you're going to eat, how much you're going to spend. If you drink, how much you're going to drink. Set those moderate levels so you're able to manage," she says.

After setting your goals, stick to them. Start by keeping up with healthy habits, or adapting new ones.

Exercise, even a few minutes a day, can reduce stress by releasing endorphins in your body, improving overall mood and sleep patterns.

Frequent small meals packed with fruits and vegetables, will give you extra energy to fight holiday exhaustion.

Another way to reduce stress is to decrease demands. Make the holidays less about spending money and more about spending time with your loved ones.

"Enjoy each other's company, you know that you're getting the gift of spending time together and talk about openly what the holidays mean in your own family culture."

Keep things in perspective. Remind your kids, and yourself, the holidays are about giving and not receiving.

One way to keep the holiday spirit alive is to give back. There are many places in our community to volunteer.

Some volunteer opportunities below:

Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/sc/myrtle-beach

Habitat for Humanity: http://www.habitatmb.org/

Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach: http://www.helpinghandofmyrtlebeach.com/

Meals on Wheels Horry County: http://www.mowhc.org/

Salvation Army: http://www.sciway.net/org/community/horry.html

Waccamaw Youth Center: http://waccamawyouthcenter.org/home10.aspx

United Way of Horry County, "Get Connected," features many more volunteer opportunities: http://unitedwayhcsc.galaxydigital.com/

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