7 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Depression

Girl sits on the window sill of the window

Andy Williams once sang that the holiday season is the “most wonderful time of the year,” but for many people, it isn’t so cheerful. The impending holidays can be stressful – end-of-year deadlines at work, family problems, poor drinking and eating habits, cold and dark winter days, and other issues can trigger sadness for anyone prone to depression. If you are feeling down this holiday, there are some ways to lift your spirits. Here are some tips:

Do Activities that Make You Happy

Figure out what activities make you feel good and will help you get through the holidays, and make them a priority. Routines, such as taking a walk, reading a book or playing games can rejuvenate you. Make a schedule if you need to so these restorative routines don’t fall by the wayside.

Avoid Family Conflict

If you know there will be stress or conflict at family gatherings, avoid them and celebrate with people who won’t make you lose your sanity. If you do decide to spend time in a volatile setting, don’t engage in arguments. Prepare neutral responses, such as, “Let’s talk about this later” and spend time with another family member, help in the kitchen, or go outside to get some air.

Learn to Grieve

The holidays are built around the joy of family, but if you’ve lost someone, the happiness of the season can quickly turn to sadness. It’s not uncommon to feel guilty about enjoying the holidays or anger at a person for leaving you alone. If you are in mourning, or just feel overwhelmed, make sure you talk to someone about your feelings. Call a good friend to help relieve your stress or anxiety. There are many support groups available that can help you reflect and heal. A professional therapist may also be an option.

Schedule Sleep

A lot happens during the holidays and the increase in activities can interfere with your sleep schedule. Studies show that depression is linked to lack of sleep, so it’s important to make sure you get enough each night. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid large meals and physical activity before bed.

Stay Healthy

Exercise is often put on the back burner during the holidays, but don’t let that happen. Make the time to get out and do something physical. Exercise improves mood, so if you’re feeling stressed out or irritated during the holidays, take a walk or go to the gym to feel better. Put exercise on your calendar a few times a week to help remind you.

Elaborate meals are a big part of the holiday season and many of us tend to overindulge. This can lead to feelings of guilt. To combat this, try to eat less. Have one piece of pie instead of two. You can also prepare for the big holiday feast by making and eating healthy meals in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Be mindful of alcohol as well. Don’t use it to deal with depression because it can affect you emotionally.

Cut Back on Commitments

There is a lot of the pressure during the holidays, from traveling home to see your family, to attending holiday parties and events, to meeting year-end work deadlines to giving the right gifts. If you tend to get stressed, feel anxiety or start feeling depressed when these activities mount, it can take a toll on you or trigger the holiday blues. It’s okay to say no to some of these things and relieve some of that pressure. If you feel like you are doing too much, sit an event out.

Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you have a case of the holiday blues, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that’s brought on by the change of seasons. If you are consistently irritable, tired and down make an appointment to see a doctor. Often a lack of exposure to the sun and may be treated by long walks during daylight hours or exposure to a light box. Make an appointment to see a doctor to discuss how you are feeling and your options for getting better.


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