Dr. Jacqueline Feldman, M.D.; Director, Division of Public Psychiatry

It’s the holiday season – time to be happy, mingle with friends and family, decorate the house, reminisce about holidays past and, in general, have a jolly good time.  But what happens when life isn’t so jolly?  When stress, a frantic pace or even depression threaten to crush the holiday spirit?  University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) psychiatrist Jacqueline Feldman, M.D., has some suggestions that might help keep the holidays from being so overwhelming.

“We are bombarded with messages during the holiday season of love, happiness, family and success,” said Feldman.  “They are inescapable, whether on TV or radio, at the mall or at holiday gatherings.  For those who personal circumstances are less than ideal, there are ways to cope, ways to manage this special time of year in a healthy manner.”

Feldman offers this guidance:

• Remember that commercials and advertisements aren’t real.  Don’t allow yourself to be unduly affected by the soft drink commercial that seems to show a perfect family in perfect harmony.

• It’s the season of giving, but don’t forget to find time to relax, unwind and give to yourself so that you’ll have something left to give to others.  Don’t try to balance or cope with the hustle and bustle with excessive food, alcohol, tobacco or caffeine.  Pace yourself and your family; don’t over-schedule your calendar.

• Don’t set your expectations too high.  If your family was dysfunctional in the summer, they probably still are during the holidays.  Be realistic in your goals and hopes for the season.

• Donate time or money to organizations that care for others during the holidays.  Helping others is a good way to feel better about yourself.  Don’t overspend and put yourself and your family under more financial stress in the new year.  Look for opportunities to spend time with one another instead of money on one another.

• If coping with recent grief at the holidays, think about creating a new tradition in the memory of your missing family member.  Try new decorations or a change in the holiday routine.  Or, volunteer your time with a charitable organization in your loved one’s name.