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(Denison, IA) – Controlling holiday stress begins with “trying to stick to as normal of a routine as possible”, said Jill Wonder of Crawford County Memorial Hospital (CCMH). Wonder is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) who offices at CCMH City Center Clinic in Denison.

“A lot of times that overwhelming holiday feeling comes from too many activities. Learning how to say ‘No’ to the things you don’t really need to do can help reduce your stress“, Wonder commented.

Jim Greenwood, also a licensed mental health counselor with CCMH, suggests good physical health can lead to good mental health.

“The holiday season is as important as any other time of year to be aware of how our mental health is connected to our physical health. As much as possible, maintain a routine of physical exercise. Simply taking the time to walk more daily can reduce stress,” Greenwood said.

Wonder also noted that getting enough sleep can be very helpful to combat holiday anxiety. “Stick to your sleep patterns to keep from getting exhausted.”

For those who have experienced the loss of a loved one during the past year, Wonder said a key stress reliever is talking about the friend or family member missing from the holidays.

“Reaching out and trying to keep those traditions going, seeing family members, and celebrating that life and remembering that loved one and those happy times, is hugely important.”

Financial stress also plays a significant role around the holiday time, Wonder said. “It’s important to set a budget and then stick to it. Have that cash in your account and don’t put those purchases on credit cards”, she explained. “Talking about the emotions around holiday spending can help us identify – is it really about presents or is it about spending time with our loved ones? We lose the focus of spending quality time with each other around the holidays.”

Wonder warns that if the stress becomes too much, it might be time to see a counselor.

“If you’re not wanting to get up in the morning, if you are isolating yourself, if you’re not going to the holiday gatherings you used to enjoy, those are signs you should reach out to a mental health professional.”

“I think it’s important we do our best to enjoy this time of year. It can be hard with personal and financial stress. I encourage people to just to enjoy the moment. Do something with your family that doesn’t cost a lot of money but creates lifelong memories”, Wonder added.

Greenwood concluded, “If practical for your situation, try doing some volunteer work in the community to assist those less fortunate or are isolated from others. Including children in activities can help them develop a sense of empathy sharing.”