Baton Rouge, La. - Despite our best efforts to stay organized during the holiday season, the hustle and bustle of travel, shopping and entertaining can be stressful on the mind and body.  The holidays can also be difficult for anyone who has experienced the loss of someone they loved.  As part of our "Healthy for the Holidays" campaign, the Department of Health encourages Louisiana residents to learn how to reduce stress and depression with a few tips to help them fully enjoy this time of year. 

Stressful situations coupled with a rapidly moving holiday season can make it difficult to stop and regroup.  When necessary, take a mental break to diffuse any situation that may seem stressful or tense.  Soothing music, slowing your breathing and avoiding distractions during this momentary pause can help reduce stress and clear your mind.  Listen to your body, understand your limits and pace yourself.  Make sure to rest when you are tired.  Get enough sleep to re-energize and allow your body to recover both mentally and physically.

"Taking 15 minutes to decompress and evaluate a situation is a great way to calm stress and anxiety," said LDH Interim Assistant Secretary for the Office of Behavioral Health Dr. Rochelle Dunham.  "Learn to understand your mind's cues of what maintenance it might need and when.  When we learn to listen to ourselves and respond to those internal needs we can be successful in managing our emotions and actions."

Taking care of your physical wellness is paramount to reducing stress.  The best coping skills are those that engage your mind, body and spirit; it is imperative to maintain all three in a healthy, positive way.  Always make time to exercise, enjoy a hobby or journal your emotions.  Having various outlets for stress relief builds resiliency.

"Life is going to be stressful at times, but the only way to reduce such anxiety is to look for productive ways to relieve it," said LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert.  "I make a conscious choice to ensure I work out and stay active during the holidays.  It is so easy to get caught up in the festivities of this season, but when you make time for yourself by engaging in physical activity or participating in hobbies that you enjoy, you're ultimately doing a favor for yourself and those around you."

Setting simple and realistic goals for the holidays is a proactive way to reduce stress. Financial worries add more stress to the holidays, so make sure to set a budget and stick to it.  Always eat and drink in moderation.  During the holidays, it is easy to overeat and drink at parties, and this can interfere with your sleep cycle and result in other unpleasant consequences.

Perhaps one of the most stressful components of the holiday season is traveling.  When planning to drive, fly or ride, make sure you recognize that delays may occur because of increased travel security and heavier traffic.  Leave for your destination earlier than you normally would and always allow yourself extra time for unforeseen circumstances.

When coping with the loss of a loved one, remember it is also important to celebrate the life of that person.  Focus on the present and look forward to the future.  Consider what is important in your life and prioritize them so that everyday stresses do not become a larger burden.  Take care of yourself and others by allowing those around you to properly express their emotions.  If you feel lonely or isolated this season, seek out community, religious or social events that offer support or companionship. Volunteering is also a great way to help and meet others.

If you or someone you know is having a particularly difficult time this holiday season, help is a phone call away.  Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For more tips on a stress free holiday season visit