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Emotional Survival Guide for the Holidays

Experts explain some simple methods for driving away the holiday blues.

Unwrapping Your Heart

"Gift giving can cause stress and unhappiness on so many levels, such as if a person doesn't have the money or time," Minnini says. "Do something better than buying a gift -- give a gift certificate to spend time with you when the holidays are over. Or if it's someone you care for, write them a letter telling them why they are so wonderful," she says, adding that this is what she and her husband do each year.

Baron agrees. He suggests asking yourself if someone is really going to think less of you if you buy them a cotton sweater instead of a cashmere sweater. It's better to give a gift from the heart as opposed to one from Saks Fifth Avenue or an equally tony boutique. "Blow up a picture and place it in a nice frame" for example, he says.

Shaking Things Up

"If your father died and you always spent Christmas Eve with dad, rather than sit home, do something different," Minnini says. "Start a new annual friends' dinner or go to a house of worship," she says. "A lot of people feel sad and lonely during the holidays because they think you should be kissing someone at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve and when that doesn't happen, they feel bad,' Minnini says. "Who says that is the only tradition that there is? Create a new tradition instead."

The bottom line is when you expect something to happen, and it doesn't, you feel lousy. "It's not necessarily the holiday that's the problem, it's our rigid expectations of it," she says. "Your family tensions probably existed the rest of the year, but they didn't upset you as much as they do now because you weren't comparing them to your holiday expectations," she explains.

Reaching Out and Touching Someone

If you ask yourself why you are down and the reason is that you can't afford to visit your Aunt Sally this year, the solution is simple, Baron says. "Use your cellular on weekends or after 4 p.m. when you can have an extended phone conversation, often for free," Baron says.

Avoiding Scrooges and Grinches

"Look at how to protect yourself from the energy vampires of the holiday season who deplete your holiday energy reserve," suggests Judith Orloff, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles and the author of Positive Energy. They can include the drama queens, blamers, criticizers, and sob sisters, she explains. Instead, "try and be around positive people. If your Aunt Meg can suddenly start up and start blaming and criticizing you and make you feel like a wreck, don't sit next to her. Stake out a seat early."

"If you know sitting next to Uncle Jake at Christmas dinner will freak you out, assure that whoever does the seating arrangement moves you to another location," says Susan Newman, PhD. Newman is the author of The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It -- and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever. "Don't be wishy-washy about decisions. People can't read your mind. If something upsets you they won't know it unless you say so."

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