MOBERLY, Mo. – Holidays can be some of the happiest times of the year, but they can also pose special challenges.

“Having to plan or host events can be hard,” says Candace Rodman, a nutrition and health specialist with University of Missouri Extension in Randolph County. “For some people who aren’t close to their family personally or geographically, or for those who are grieving the loss or absence of loved ones, this season can heighten loneliness and feeling extra blue.”

Here are a few tips for coping with seasonal blues:

Start new traditions of your own

“It’s OK to celebrate these special days in your own way. Don’t feel obligated to be uncomfortable for someone else’s tradition,” Rodman said.

Foster connections

“If you’re away from family, reach out to others nearby and plan something you enjoy, whether that’s watching a movie together, preparing a meal, going for a hike or bike ride,” she said.

Don’t obsess over food

“Stop labeling foods ‘good’ and ‘bad,’” Rodman said. “Of course, first and foremost, follow your health care provider’s advice, and eating and drinking in moderation is always recommended. But we all know there are special treats around the holidays.” Focusing too much on avoiding certain foods can backfire, adding to stress about weight gain and feelings of low self-esteem.

“Instead, focus on gratitude that we have these things to share and enjoy them while we can — in moderation,” Rodman said. Research has shown that, on average, people gain around a pound from Halloween through the New Year — a manageable amount to shed once the holidays end.

Rodman’s favorites:

  • Holiday treat — hot chocolate with fancy peppermint garnish
  • Side dish — homemade creamy mashed potatoes with garlic, chives, cheddar cheese and, of course, tons of butter.

Get out and move

Whether it’s a jog around the block, a walk through the mall, a pickup game of basketball or football, or a drop-in yoga class, getting out of the house and moving is good for the body, mind and mood, Rodman said.

Stepping away

Give yourself and others space. Plan an exit before you’re overwhelmed. Whether that’s a brisk walk, a quiet room to relax alone in or an early departure to beat the worst traffic, it’s OK to set limits. Just be sure to help with the dishes before you scoot.

You’re not the boss of them

Stop monitoring and managing others’ decisions around food, exercise and more during the holidays. It’s seldom helpful or successful and adds to everyone’s stress.

Holidays are different for everyone

Remember that not everybody celebrates all the holidays you do. Nor does everyone feel the same way about the holidays. Be open to learning about and sharing in others’ traditions.

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