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Holy %$*), its the holidays!

I realize that for most, the holiday season started at Thanksgiving and will now stretch into this New Year's revelry. I personally see Thanksgiving as it's own event, and when December actually arrives does the Holiday season begin for me. So I resist decorating the house and don't want to listen to the season's music until November ends.

Now, this time of year is wonderful, difficult, saddening, and jubilant all wrapped into a month's worth of television specials, football games, office parties, religious functions, decorations, shopping trips, and family visits. So, for all the joy and gratitude this time of year is supposed to bring, so to arrives an increased helping of seasonal stress and often some unrealistic expectations.

How to keep the stress in check has a lot to do with those expectations. The higher the expectation to have that "perfect holiday" which is (ironically enough) composed of imperfect people, the greater the risk for sky-rocketing blood pressure, throbbing headaches, excessive consumption (name your poison), and a host of other signs and symptoms that can ruin the overall mood and promote conflict.

One way to help monitor the exceptions is to keep an open perspective. Mistakes are going to be made; people are fallible. When I can keep that in perspective, the opportunity to stay calm and let "things" go is more likely to be realized. So take a deep breath.

Realizing that the crowds can, and likely will, be worse at the grocery store, in the mall, and online helps maintain a more open mind to just let it be. I can't change what I can't change, so why get upset at what is beyond my control (other than to just have an excuse to be upset - i.e. Grinches).

And take another deep breath so as not to take the stress out on somebody that does not deserve it. We all have targets for our displaced feelings. Sometimes it's our partners and spouses that catch it, at other times it's our parents, and still others our children or folks at work. Being aware and mindful of what belongs to who can go a long way in preventing an argument, saying something that is later regretted, ruining a family meal, or having an unnecessary argument with a spouse or partner.

We will all be waiting longer in traffic, on the phone, and in the check-out lines. Our kids will want more stuff than they need, our schedules can easily become overfilled with obligations, and family will stress us out. Knowing what to expect can help when the tensions begin to mount and you feel your brow furrow in frustration. That and taking another deep breath. This will all be a memory in just a few short weeks. Enjoy the season for what it is worth, remember what is truly important for you, and care for those that have less. Giving a little (your time is equally precious and valuable as any purchased gift) is a great way to help ward off those holiday blues and better manage the seasonal stress.

Just remember, mental health matters.

Happy Holidays.