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PINE BLUFF - The holiday season is a joyous time of year for many. However, the holidays can bring bouts of stress or depression for some, according to Teresa Henson, Extension specialist - nutrition outreach coordinator for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

"Such feelings can lead to isolation and not wanting to deal with family and friends," Henson said. "To preserve your mental health and limit breakdowns, it's important to take time for yourself and regroup, so you won't feel overwhelmed during the holidays."

When dealing with holiday seasons, focus on the holiday stresses you can control, she said. This may include making different plans or changing how you react to different family situations.

Below are some recommendations from The Mayo Clinic to prevent stress and depression during the holidays:

1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's okay to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

2. Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget.

3. Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overeating only adds to your stress, guilt and unwanted pounds.

4. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 10 to 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.

5. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless. If these feelings last longer, then you should talk to your physician or mental health professional.

"To have an enjoyable holiday, take the necessary steps to recognize the triggers that dampen your spirits," Henson said. "Addressing these steps can allow you to enjoy a happy holiday."

Source: Stress Management, The Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org.

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