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It may never be 'the best Christmas ever'

The holidays are hectic for many of us. Along with the usual day-to-day responsibilities there is the added travel, shopping, cooking, visiting and making merry.

Even the most sanguine soul may feel upended during this time of year.

For people with depressive disorders or bipolar disorder, the holidays may be looked forward to with dread instead of happy anticipation.

People with mood disorders often feel guilty that they can’t manufacture the big smiles and party-time spirit that can seem to permeate the very air during this season.

Before you retreat to your bed with a pile of mystery novels and a bottle of Xanax, however, try these tips to make Christmas and New Year’s Eve less of a burden and more of a joy.

1. Don’t listen to all the hype about Christmas being the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Problems don’t magically disappear because it’s almost December 25, no matter how many Hallmark Channel programs want us to believe it.

If your marriage is a mess in November, chances are it will be a mess in December. Same with kids, dogs, finances and neighbors.

Give yourself permission to be reasonable about the holidays and not get caught up in the “you-should-be-happy-because-it’s-Christmas” idea.

2. If you tend to make merry, which is my euphemism for consuming alcohol, be prepared to pay the price. Depression/bipolar disorder and alcohol don’t mix!

Alcohol messes with antidepressant medications and also increases the sedation effect of those drugs.

Since many depressives also have addiction issues, anyway, it’s a good idea to stay away from the sauce no matter what time of year it is.

3. Now is not the time to miss out on necessary sleep. And how much sleep do we need? All of it.

Even one or two nights of going to bed late can result in a cascade of highs and lows that can be debilitating.

For bipolar sufferers, studies show that manic episodes often follow on the heels of a disruption of the normal sleep/wake cycle.

Those with mood disorders can experience depressive episodes after missing regular sleep hours.

4. Don’t take on too many responsibilities. If you commit to something during a manic phase, you might not be able to deliver when the time comes.

Do you really need to cook Christmas dinner for your entire extended family? Do you really need to cram holiday activities into every night?

5. Be honest with yourself about what you can handle.

If you know that the bright lights and loud music at last year’s company Christmas party led to a meltdown, give yourself permission to skip it this year.

If you feel you have to go, make plans to leave early before the environment becomes too overwhelming.

6. Don’t forget to exercise. A 20-minute walk after dinner can do wonders for your mood.

Don’t wait to take advantage of the positive benefits of activity until you’re starting to feel a downward shift in your mood. Get moving now and you may stay on an even keel for much longer.

I hope these tips help you. If you have more helpful ideas, please post them to the comment section of the newspaper and let us know how you cope with the holidays.

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