Some Utahns may find the holiday season stressful

Along with lights, trees and presents, the holiday season can be filled with stress, anxiety and even depression. As one antidote, experts recommend turning the focus to the kinds of gifts that money can't buy. Photo credit: Library of Congress.

SALT LAKE CITY – For people in Utah who have experienced losses, are less fortunate or are in a family overcome by stress, the holidays can be a challenging time, but experts say small changes can help people find the joy in the season.

Psychotherapist Mary Michail sees the toll the holiday hustle and bustle can take on her clients.

“People tend to put a lot of pressure that they have to be happy, or have to say yes to every party invite they get,” she says. “Or they have to do their Christmas cards, or they have to put lights outside.

“I always tell people that the best thing you can give people is love and compassion, and your time.”

Michail says it’s important to keep a close eye on friends, colleagues and loved ones who isolate themselves, seem withdrawn or are sleeping too much, as those could be warning signs of more serious depression. She adds that the symptoms often intensify after the first of the year.

While many embrace tradition this time of year, Michail says it can be freeing to make a change, especially for those who may be going through a tumultuous time.

“Break tradition,” she urges. “I always tell family members, ‘You don’t necessarily always have to do everything exactly as you did last year. Do something different! Start a new tradition for your family.’ New traditions then create new beginnings.”

Despite the rampant focus on consumerism, Michail points out this can be a meaningful time of year, provided families take the time and effort to fill the season with what she calls the right gifts, such as volunteering and giving to others.

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