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With the holiday season here, financial burdens and extra chores can get the better of just about anyone. At a time of year when we wish for peace on earth, many of us are just hoping for some peace of mind.

Here are ten tips from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of Grey-Bruce to help us all have a less hectic, and a much more mentally healthier holiday season.

  1. Plan ahead. When entertaining, keep it simple and make meals that can be prepared ahead of time, partially prepared and/or able to be frozen. Try to complete things in advance so you can relax and visit with family and friends.

  2. Organize and delegate. Rather than have one person cooking the whole meal, have family and friends bring a dish. Children can help with gift-wrapping, decorating baking, or addressing cards.

  3. Beware of overindulgence. Alcohol is a depressant, so try to keep consumption to a minimum, and too much food can make you feel lethargic, tired, and guilty, so enjoy both responsibly this season.

  4. Get plenty of exercise. Exercising as a family not only works out excess energy and stress but can also be a much-needed break during hectic weeks. Getting out for a walk to enjoy the Festival of Northern Lights is a great way to get needed exercise.

  5. Stay within budget. Finances can be a huge stressor so set a budget and stick with it. A call, a visit, or a note to tell someone how important they are to you can be as touching and more meaningful than a gift. Enjoy the many free activities available during the holiday season, including driving around to look at holiday decorations, going skating, or taking a walk in the park.

  6. Remember what the holiday season means to you. While holiday advertising creates a picture that the holidays are about shiny new toys and gift giving, remember that this season is really about sharing and time spent with loved ones. Create your own meaningful family traditions.

  7. Help others learn about shared social responsibility. Attend one of the many cultural events with family and friends. Help out at a local food bank or donate clothes and toys. Encourage children to make gifts or cards for friends and relatives so the focus is on giving rather than buying.

  8. Include others. If you have few family or friends, reach out to neighbours. Find ways to spend the holidays with other people. If you're part of a family gathering, invite someone you know is alone to your gathering.

  9. Put fun, humour, affection, and 'break time' into your holidays. Fun or silly activities, games or movies that make you laugh, hugs, playing with pets, and quiet time alone with a partner are all good ways to reduce stress.

  10. Get into the light. Research suggests that elevated depression around this time of year can have a lot to do with the weather, especially lack of daylight. So soak up the sun when you can. If your dampened mood carries into the New Year, you may want to pay a visit to your doctor or mental health professional.

For more information about this or other tips for peace of mind during the holiday season, visit www.cmhagb.org or contact the Canadian Mental Health Association at 371-3642.