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Family Gatherings

A serving of drama with your holiday turkey? If your family fights, or going home triggers bad memories, you can cope.

  • Don't expect the worst. Focus on catching up with a cousin or enjoying your favorite dish.
  • Make a plan. Have a trusted relative ready to spring you from bad conversations.
  • Set a time limit. Stop by for just 15 minutes. Or if you can't bear to go, just RSVP "no."
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Over-Commercialization

When plastic reindeer and pressure to outdo last year's gifts are just plain depressing, here are some ways to put the focus back on whatever's meaningful to you:

Spend quality time with loved ones. Draw from your beliefs. Stick to simple traditions. Make a donation to charity instead of giving gifts.

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Over-Committing

How to cope: Behold the power of "No." Sounds silly, but practice saying it -- out loud, in front of a mirror. Feel free to drop "no" to any holiday invitation. You don't have to give a reason. Making a commitment to yourself to stay well-rested is healthy.

If there's an obligation you feel you must honor but you're still feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Be specific. For example, "Can you bring the salad?"

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Financial Worries

You don't have to spend a lot -- or even anything -- to show you care.

Try: Buying books, personalizing by topic. Writing a thoughtful note or making gifts. Or scheduling a coffee or dinner with friends to enjoy one another's company.

When shopping, create a budget early and stick to it. Scope out gifts online to avoid impulse buys in the mall frenzy.

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Unrealistic Expectations

Life is hectic year-round. Add the pressure to produce a perfect holiday while also being merry and it's easy to be left feeling bogged down, not festive.

Coping tip: Ditch perfectionism. No time to bake cookies for your son's classmates? Store-bought cookies are just fine. Forgot the wreath? It's OK. Your family will forgive you.

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Fatigue

Staying up late wrapping presents, devoting days to make tins of chocolate treats for neighbors, or hustling through the mall can be exhausting and take its toll.

Coping tip: Take a breather. Remember, you can't enjoy the holidays if you're wading through them in a zombie-like fog. Make time to rest and revitalize. Plan nights in with no commitments and head to bed early.

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Stress

Relatives. Shopping. Travel. Party planning. Finding childcare. Holidays can add to stress or sadness you feel during the regular year.

To survive: Plan daily "me time." Just set aside 15 minutes to go walking or do something else you enjoy.

If you see a therapist, make arrangements to go more often if you feel you'll need it. Or ask if you can do phone check-ins in case of crisis.

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Breaking Healthy Habits

So you had an extra cup of eggnog. It's OK. Don't let a one-time holiday overindulgence derail the healthy habits you work on all year -- like eating well, getting enough rest, and taking medications regularly.

Tips to get on track: Start fresh tomorrow. Try fresh veggies or fruit as a pre-party snack to curb buffet regrets. Avoid alcohol or know your limit. Keep a set exercise and eating routine.

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Being Away from Family and Friends

If you can't make it home this holiday or your friends have other plans, try:

  • Branching out. Celebrate with folks who will be in town and start a new tradition.
  • Looking ahead. Plan a visit in the New Year. Focusing on a future visit can take your mind off the present.
  • Volunteering. It places you around people and the emphasis on giving. Studies show helping others can help improve your mood and well-being.
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Shorter Days, Lack of Sunlight

The darkness of winter really does affect some people's moods. Sadness, anxiousness, loss of interest in activities, or sleeping more every winter can be a sign of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). An estimated 10% - 20% of people in the U.S. experience a mild form of winter onset SAD, and it seems to be more common in women.

Coping tip: If you have symptoms, see your doctor. Treatment is available.