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Emotional Survival Guide for the Holidays

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

Laying off the Eggnog

Alcohol and holidays often go hand in hand; imbibing may seem especially tempting at the annual office holiday party. But don't give into temptation if you are in a negative state of mind, Mininni says. "If you are depressed, alcohol will make you more depressed because it is a depressant."

Speaking of holiday fetes, "a lot of people dread the holidays because they are not looking forward to the parties," says David Baron, DO, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral health sciences at Temple University School of Medicine and Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. "If you feel politically obligated to go to an office party, go for a few minutes and make sure the boss sees you. Wish your colleagues a happy holiday and say you have another commitment," he says.

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.

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