The holiday season is a time for joy, cheer, parties, and family gatherings but for many people, the stress of the holidays and depression (i.e. the “holiday blues”) make the holidays a less than enjoyable experience. There are a variety of factors that contribute to holiday stress and depression. For some, depression is spurred by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression associated to the change of seasons when shorter days mean less sunlight and less outdoor activity; for others, the end of year reflection, loneliness, and expectations (realistic or unrealistic) cause anxiety and stress. Financial constraints and the demands of shopping and socializing (i.e. work, family, friends, etc.) also contribute and lead to stress responses such as headaches, excessive alcohol and/or food consumption, and fatigue.
The good news is the holidays will not last forever! The following are tips and suggestions for dealing with stress, depression, and surviving the holiday season from Mental Health America formerly known as the National Mental Health Association:
- Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities.
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t put the entire focus on just one day (i.e., Thanksgiving Day). Remember that it’s a season of holiday sentiment, and activities can be spread out to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
- Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
- Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
- Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some of your time to help others.
- Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping or making a snowperson with children.
- Be aware that excessive drinking may increase your feelings of depression.
- Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
- Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, or contact someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
- Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.
For more information on Mental Health America please visit www.nmha.org.