By Chris Edwards (R-N-AD19)
Greetings and happy holidays to everyone!

2015 seems to have gone in a flash. I hope the year has been a happy and healthy one for all. I also hope that you will all have a great Christmas and even happier New Year.

Most of us are already in the throes of the holiday season. Our schedules are more full, days are busier, shopping lists are longer and our expectations are higher. Some years ago, I was reminded about some great points regarding stress during the holidays. It has helped me ever since. I hope one or two of these ideas may help you to reduce stress and enjoy the holidays.

We often over-schedule ourselves at this time of the year. We want to attend every party, concert, church/synagogue service, and children’s play/performance. Sometimes, we just have to say “No, thank you,” or “I’m sorry, but I’m already committed that evening.” Reducing one or two events can make a noticeable difference in our stress level.

One of the biggest stress inducing things we do is to expect everything to be perfect. Hollywood and media encourage us to raise our expectations that everything will be perfect or it is a bust. Pursuing the perfect “White Christmas,” often causes people to lose sight of the joy of the season if they can’t find the desired present, not all the children can make it home, you can’t attend your favorite party or a hundred other things go wrong. We can save ourselves tremendous stress by striving for a really great season, rather than an impossible-to-achieve perfect one. Expecting that some things won’t be exactly as desired helps to avoid the “let-down” feeling.

Shopping among crowds of other stressed out people is a recipe for added anxiety. Cyber-shopping may reduce some of this, but even normal shopping can find you in larger crowds and longer lines. Sometimes, re-arranging your schedule to shop when the crowds are smaller, buying fewer more relevant presents, or limiting the time allocated to shopping can help. As the costs for the tree, decorations, presents, party food, dinner etc. add up, we can face financial worries about how much this is busting our budgets. A better approach is to set your budget and stick with it. This gives us a greater sense of control and confidence.

As we bustle around, we often over-work ourselves. We give ourselves less time for sleep, exercise and eating right. Each of these wear us down and make us feel “bad.” Taking care of yourself will help ensure that you enjoy the holidays without the added burden of feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

Perhaps the worst stress is the desire to be with loved ones but not having them (or anyone) around for the holidays. This affects people of all ages. For those who have lost loved ones since the last holiday season, this feeling is especially painful. For those who have become divorced and may not have their children around, the separation can be similarly depressing. Others who just can’t afford to be with loved ones or friends often suffer during this season. Sometimes friends and neighbors can help to fill the void, especially if we remember our friends are going through tough times/losses and make the effort to reach out.

Unfortunately, Nevada has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, and this is tragically true for our youth and veterans. The good news is that there are many people and organizations who care and are ready to help. Please remember there is no shame in asking for assistance.

Nevada’s Division of Public and Behavioral Health, Department of Health and Human Services, has an Office of Suicide Prevention (http://dpbh.nv.gov/Programs/SuicidePrevention), and there is also a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) that you or someone you know may call anytime 24/7 to speak with a trained counselor. We really can’t emphasize enough how important it is to look out for others who have been going through tough times. The biggest mistake is to not ask if others are really okay this season. Suicide prevention trainers emphasize how we must be brave enough to ask others, “Are you thinking about suicide?” when family or friends seem to be hopeless and adrift. Many suicides are stopped every day by someone who asked their family, friend or classmate this simple question.

During this festive season as we gather to celebrate the holidays, please take the time to be good to yourself, to each other, and realize that if you are struggling (or you know someone who is), there are people out there that want to help you and see you happy.

I hope you have a happy and wonderful holiday season!