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Finding the Holiday Spirit: Emotions continued...

4. Don’t assume the worst. “I think some people go into the holidays with expectations so low that it makes them more depressed,” says Duckworth. So don’t start the holiday season anticipating disaster. If you try to take the holidays as they come and limit your expectations -- both good and bad -- you may enjoy them more.

5. Forget the unimportant stuff. Don’t run yourself ragged just to live up to holiday tradition. So what if you don’t get the lights on the roof this year? So what if you don’t get the special Christmas mugs from the crawl space? Give yourself a break. Worrying about such trivial stuff will not add to your holiday spirit.

6. Volunteer. Sure, you may feel stressed out and booked up already. But consider taking time to help people who have less than you. Try volunteering at a soup kitchen or working for a toy drive. “You could really find some comfort from it,” says Duckworth, “knowing that you’re making a small dent in the lives of people who have so little.”

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Family

7. Head off problems. Think about what people or situations trigger your holiday stress and figure out ways to avoid them. If seeing your uncle stresses you out, skip his New Year’s party and just stop by for a quick hello on New Year’s Day. Instead of staying in your bleak, childhood bedroom at your stepfather’s house, check into a nearby hotel. You really have more control than you think.

8. Ask for help -- but be specific. See if your spouse will lug out the decorations. Ask your sister to help you cook -- or host the holiday dinner itself. Invite a friend along on shopping trips. People may be more willing to help out than you expect; they just need some guidance from you on what to do.

9. Don’t worry about things beyond your control. So your uncle and your dad get into a fight every holiday dinner and it makes you miserable. But remember your limits. You can’t control them. But you can control your own reaction to the situation.

10 Triggers for Holiday Blues

Typical causes of holiday stress -- and what you can do about them.
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