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WARD OFF THE HOLIDAY BLUES

Dear Readers: Today is Thanksgiving, the time we pause to consider the blessings for which we are grateful. In many homes across this great nation of ours, turkeys are being stuffed -- just as the people who consume them will be later in the day.

But for many individuals, today and the holidays that follow can be an intensely difficult time, triggering feelings of stress, loneliness and loss. If a person is prone to depression, these feelings can be further magnified.

How can anyone feel depressed at this time of year? you ask. It's not that far-fetched. People who are separated from their families often feel isolated because they can't celebrate in the traditional way. Families who have lost a loved one during the year often feel the absence especially at this time. Others become depressed because they imagine that everyone else is enjoying a warm, idealized family experience, while they are on the outside looking in.

Even people who enjoy the holidays can find them stressful. This is a time of year when people are stretched for time, energy and money -- particularly the latter. They may become embarrassed because they can't celebrate the way they would like to celebrate, or in the style they have in years past.

Some ways to ward off the holiday blues:

Keep expectations reasonable. Don't take on more activities than you can handle -- financially or otherwise.

Don't overspend. Plan a holiday budget and live within it, regardless of the temptation.

Do not run up credit card debt, or January will be like a serious hangover.

And speaking of hangovers: Watch your alcohol intake. Remember, although alcohol seems to be a mood elevator, it is actually a depressant. If you have a problem with alcohol, get whatever support you need to make it through the holidays.

A final thought: If you're feeling down and want an instant "upper," the surest way to accomplish it is to do something nice for someone else. Call someone who lives alone and invite that person to dinner. Better yet, say, "I'm coming to get you, and I'll see that you get safely home." (Some older people don't drive at night, and those who do might prefer not to be behind the wheel after dark.) Give it a try! You'll be glad you did.

And now, I'll repeat the traditional Thanksgiving Prayer that was penned by my mother, Pauline Phillips, years ago. My Thanksgiving would not be complete without it:

Oh, Heavenly Father,

We thank thee for food and remember the hungry.

We thank thee for health and remember the sick.

We thank thee for friends and remember the friendless.

We thank thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.

May these remembrances stir us to service,

That thy gifts to us may be used for others. Amen.

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