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By Jessie Schirrick

December is the busiest month of the year for a lot of people. There’s the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, spending time with loved ones, perhaps finishing up the semester or gearing up for a new year. All of these activities inspire a lot of excitement, but also a lot of stress and anxiety. People often become overwhelmed figuring out how to pay for gifts, coordinating travel plans, and/or seeing family members who may not bring out the best in us. Unfortunately, a commonly-practiced holiday coping method by using alcohol. While drinking may provide temporary relief, relying on alcohol, or any other substance to ease negative emotions, can quickly turn into a long-term, unhealthy habit. Here are a few ways to remedy potential holiday-induced emotional turmoil.

Giving gifts is meant to be one of the most joyful parts of the holidays. In order to keep them that way, you should know your budget. If certain items will have you in debt for the rest of the year, consider crafting some homemade gifts instead. Wreaths, Christmas tree ornaments, and candles are all very easy to make at a very low cost, or perhaps bake some cookies or brownies for your loved ones. Many people perceive homemade gifts as much more thoughtful than store-bought gifts anyway.

Travel plans can become very complicated at Christmas time because family and friends may be in various locations. It may be wise to negotiate with your loved ones so you don’t spread yourself too thin and become unable to savor the time you have to spend together. If you spent last year’s holidays with your in-laws, consider spending this year’s holidays with your family. Also be sure to check out websites like to find deals on flights and hotels.

If your family is prone to fighting and arguing when you all get together, have lots of group games like “Heads Up”, “Speak Out”, and “Apples to Apples” on hand to keep the lighthearted mood alive. If you’re more introverted and large gatherings overwhelm you, take a time-out for yourself by taking a walk or a drive to relax.  Maintaining your regular sleep, eating, and exercise schedule is also important for staying energized and happy. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy seasonal treats in moderation, but plunging head first into a chocolate fudge binge will probably just leave you feeling guilty and sick to your stomach.

The holidays may also trigger feelings of loneliness and sadness in people who are unable to get away from work to see their families or who don’t have loved ones to celebrate with. If this is the case for you, know you’re not the only one experiencing this. Depression is certainly nothing to be ashamed of and you should seek help from a professional if you are suffering from this very common disorder. You might also consider spending the holidays volunteering at your local food bank or homeless shelter. Volunteering is shown to help people gain a sense of fulfillment and purpose in their lives.

Above all, enjoy this precious yet fleeting time of year and remember that it’s all about the spirit of giving.