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Don't let yuletide stress ruin your holiday

'Tis the season for yuletide carols and decked halls, but with the new iPhone costing more than a mortgage payment and in-laws critiquing your decked halls, this merry little Christmas can turn into a stressful one.

"Around the holidays, it's very common for people to feel overwhelmed," said Megan Spencer, Essentia Health psychologist, who sees patients at the South University Clinic in Fargo. "As a society, we've put so many expectations and pressures on ourselves, it's easy to get stressed."

The consumer health group Healthline conducted a 2015 study, finding 62 percent of respondents said their stress was elevated during the holidays. Only 10 percent of respondents said their stress wasn't affected at all during the season of joy.

"During the holidays, people are having more company come over, are in charge of cooking for more people and are expected to spend more money all with a smile," Spencer said. "Yes, the holidays are an incredibly magical time that can bring people together, but people need to know their personal limits and not stretch themselves too thin."

A vital part of keeping on top of things during the holidays is to maintain a normal routine. Exercising may seem like the last thing you want to do, but it naturally relieves stress and keeps your body working properly. Having a regular sleep schedule can keep away any Grinch-like feelings, and never forget the importance of deep breathing.

Setting aside 15 minutes a day for "me time" can also be beneficial for your health. It may be hard, but learn to say "no." If you are invited to eight events in seven days, you don't have to attend everyone.

"Every person's mental health is different and has different needs, and we need to recognize that," said Spencer. "Maybe instead of thinking you need to be go, go, go this holiday season, take a little break."

Experts also recommend planning. Whether it's coordinating who is bringing what food to the Christmas table or a budget limit for gifts, having a game plan can make your life a little less hectic.

"We watch these images on TV or see these pictures of families and house decorations that seem perfect, and that's just unrealistic," said Spencer. "Perfection doesn't exist. Simply do what you can to make the holiday season special for you and your family."

Whether you're merrily roasting chestnuts on an open fire or dealing with Jack Frost nipping at your nose, this Christmas doesn't need to be stressful. Spend time with the ones you love and set expectations that are realistic for you and yours.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or depressed this season, there's help. You can see one of Essentia Health's psychologists. Go to www.EssentiaHealth.org to find providers and resources or call your local clinic to learn more.

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