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The stress just mounts.

The homemade eggnog didn’t turn out quite right. The Christmas tree has gaps Santa could park his sleigh in.

Traffic crams the streets. Shopping malls are jam-packed, and some bargain hunters steer shopping carts in the same maniacal, chaotic and rude manner in which they drive.

The perfect gift for your significant other remains elusive, and you’re running out of time. Maybe your spouse is thousands of miles away in a combat zone.

Whatever happened to a holiday season filled of joy, cheer and family gatherings?

You can cope, says Karen Karakimov, director of the Fleet and Family Support Center at Naval Support Activity Naples Italy.

Keep a routine, and keep it simple, she suggests.

“That’s one of the most important things, maintaining that routine. Keep going to gym, for example.”

Ironically, fewer people attend the anger and stress management sessions the center offers just when they might need it the most, she says.

“They don’t have time — they’re too busy eating, shopping and drinking — but we wish they’d come in,” Karakimov said.

Several factors contribute to holiday blues: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends, according to the Mental Health America, a nonprofit agency based in Alexandria, Va.

Take time for you, even if it’s a few moments a day, Karakimov said.

“Eat well, and try to get as much rest as you can. Sleep is important. It’s winter, it’s cold, and with the added stress, people are more susceptible to colds, which will make things worse. Take care of yourself.”

Know your limits, she said, and stick to them. “Learn how to be assertive and say ‘No,’” the director suggested. “Whether it’s not attending some of the holiday parties, or not going all out on getting presents, or controlling your spending, learn to say ‘No.’”

The grub is especially good this time of year, as well as the spirits that accompany the fatty or sugar-laden holiday treats. Partake, Karakimov said, but in moderation.

The base offers deployment support groups that meet regularly at the base high and elementary schools, and counselors offer suggestions for spouses and children to stay connected with their deployed loved ones, she said.

The center also runs quarterly support groups in conjunction with the base hospital where people can learn tips on healthy eating and coping with separation.

And when the carol “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” plays on the radio between James Blunt and Linkin Park, smile.

“Take time to appreciate the little things,” Karakimov said.

Staying cool, calm

Karen Karakimov, director of the Fleet and Family Support Center at Naples, offers some suggestions on warding off stress this holiday season:

Keep a routine: “Keep going to the gym, for example.”

Stay healthy: “Eat well, and try to get as much rest as you can. Sleep is important.”

Attend stress management sessions: “[People say] they don’t have time – they’re too busy eating, shopping and drinking – but we wish they’d come in.”

Know your limits: “Whether it’s not attending some of the holiday parties, or not going all out on getting presents, or controlling your spending,learn to say ‘No.’”

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