holiday depression

9 tips for overcoming the Holiday Blues

The holidays are again upon us and, for many, the feelings of depression may start creeping in.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of good-cheer and celebration, which makes sufferers of depression even more self-conscious of their dark moods. For many people, the holidays are a time of self-reflection, loneliness, rumination about past failures, and anxiety about an uncertain future. In addition, many are experiencing the added stress of financial worries as the economy continues to falter.

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What causes, "Holiday Blues?"

The holiday blues are caused by numerous factors all occurring around the same time in a person's life such as seasonal light changes, financial worries, expectations from friends and family, a whirl of constant activity, resurfacing of personal losses, and/or the inability to be with friends and family due to work or distance. The demands of parties, shopping, house guests, and family reunions also contribute to feelings of tension. People may respond with stress responses such as over-eating, difficulty sleeping, and excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages. There is also the phenomenon of post-holiday let-down. This occurs after January 1, when we are supposed to go back to our regular schedule. The depression felt then may by due to disappointment at how the holidays went and fatigue and exhaustion from all the pressures of the preceding few weeks.

How to cope with stress of the holidays:

  1. Take time for you
    In the whirl of activities, take some time out for a hot bath, a long walk, a favorite book, a massage, or even your favorite meal and music. Remember yourself in all the giving and running around. You will be happy that you did.

    Also, it is important that you stick to a healthy diet, minimize alcohol consumption, stay active and get adequate rest. Be especially disciplined when it comes to emotional eating or reaching for the sweets when you're feeling stressed or tired. Try to spend a few hours outdoors every day (or consider using a light box) to offset the lack of sunlight exposure during this time of year.
  2. Be realistic
    Be honest with yourself and others about your limitations during the holidays. For some this is no easy task. Don't put the focus of the season on one day such as Thanksgiving Day. Remember the sentiment of the season every day of it and spread activities out so that you can enjoy the season without getting overwhelmed. Learn that it's ok to ask for help from others if you're feeling overwhelmed or say "no" to volunteer requests if you already have your plate full.
  3. Manage holiday expectations
    Don't set yourself up to dread holidays by asking too much of yourself or your family during this time. Pace yourself, set priorities, and organize your time so that you are not feeling resentful and disappointed that the holidays have taken too much out of you.
  4. Focus on the present moment and "now" as much as possible
    If the holidays tend to steer you toward rumination about how much better it was in the past, make a list of all the things in your life right now that you did not have in the past and be grateful for them now. Don't set yourself up by comparing the good old days to what is, now.
  5. Do something for someone else
    If you are lonely this holiday season and want to be around others that are extending the spirit, volunteer for assistance to those less well off than yourself. This can help ease your loneliness and help you see your plight as better than you thought. Thoughts of sadness and depression about your losses tend to diminish when you are focused on helping others.
  6. Do activities that are free
    If you are strapped for cash and that has got you down, look for all the free opportunities out there this holiday season. Taking a drive to look at holiday lights, for example, is low-cost and fun for the whole family.

    Along the same lines, don't compound your stress by over overspending on holday travels, parties, or buying holiday gifts for others. Create a realistic budget and then commit to it.
  7. Try something new
    If you find yourself in a rut and traditions are impossible to follow this year, make up some new traditions that are unusual and memorable.
  8. Remember that the holidays often do not banish feelings of sadness
    There is room for feelings of sadness over losses or loneliness. These feelings are a normal part of living and sometimes they surface despite our best intentions. Try to accept how you are feeling, honor it, and then try to think of ways to manage the feeling so it does not overshadow your holiday experience.
  9. Spend time with those who support and care about you
    Remember to set some time aside to spend with your supporters and those who give you a good feeling about yourself. There is enough to feel bad about, and the holidays are a time to reach out or reconnect with those who make you feel good about yourself and life.

Please Note: Holiday Blues are most common during the Thanksgiving through New Years period. If feelings of depression persist beyond the holiday period, please consider contacting a mental health professional since this may be a sign of a more serious condition. If the feelings become suicidal or harmful to yourself or others, call 911.

Taking good care of yourself during the holidays not be easy but will benefit you and your family long after the festivities have come to a close. You will be much happier and have more energy to do the things that really matter. A happy holiday season is possible if you take steps to make it so!

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