How to prevent depression around the holidays

Although the holidays are meant to be a joyous time, for some it could trigger depression. Emotional and financial stress, which is often associated with the end-of-the-year festivities, can very well trigger depression, but experts suggest there are ways to prevent depression from striking this time of year.

Patricia Woods, liaison service at New York-Presbyterian Queens, explained, “There are so many social activities, chores, and events during the holiday season. You simply can’t do it all. Keep your expectations reasonable and set realistic goals about what you can and cannot accomplish. Say ‘no’ when you need to. Your priority is you and your family. Spread the joy out over the entire holiday season rather than placing all of the importance on one specific day or event. In doing so, you’ll be less likely to become overwhelmed.”

Woods added, “If you and a family member tend to bicker, this will probably be the case during the holidays as well. Prepare yourself for the inevitable. You can’t change your relationships in one day. Enjoy your time with your family without expecting them to be someone else on a holiday.”

Woods suggests identifying stressful triggers and working on reducing them or avoiding them altogether. For example, if last year you attempted to complete six pies and that was a stress ordeal, only focus on making one or two, so you do not get overstressed in trying to reach your goal.

Woods also explained, “Try to make time for others as well. For example, you can volunteer at a soup kitchen or prepare a few gifts for families in need. Doing things for others who are less fortunate than yourself will help you to keep the holidays in perspective. Rather than thinking about what you can’t buy, be grateful for what you have and all of the positive things in your life. Think about the extra time and joy that you have to share with your friends and family.”

Lastly, it is very important to recognize the symptoms of depression early on. “If you are experiencing some signs of depression: crying spells, difficulty sleeping, feelings of sadness or guilt, and appetite changes, reach out and get help. If these symptoms show up in your daily list, slow down and reach out to friends and family for extra support,” Woods concluded.

If symptoms are persistent after the holidays, seek out professional help in order to treat your depression.

Tips to Avoid Holiday Depression

If you want to make the holidays run as smooth as possible while still maintaining your mental and physical health, here are some tips you can utilize to do so.

  • Acknowledge your feelings – trying to ignore how you feel will only increase depression and anxiety.
  • Mend relationships or learn to deal with them – even if you’re not fond of your uncle, you will most likely have to see him; therefore, it’s important to put those negative feelings aside and learn how to cope.
  • Create a budget – setting limits on gifts and holiday spending can leave you at ease; not in the hole after all is said and done.
  • Seek help if necessary.
  • Schedule downtime – it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, but scheduling time for yourself can allow you to recharge.
  • Don’t abandon healthy habits – the holidays aren’t an excuse to throw healthy habits out the window. Ensure you continue to eat well, exercise, drink in moderation and are getting enough sleep.
  • Make realistic expectations – we all want holiday grandeur, but sometimes we simply don’t have the means to do so or problems arise. Instead of being hard on yourself, accept that things aren’t perfect and that everyone is still having a good time (even without the hand-painted turkey centerpiece!).
  • Spend time alone – although relationships are important, alone time is equally important, so take time out of your busy schedule to reconnect with yourself.
  • Forgive – with a new year approaching, it’s a good idea to forgive those who have done you wrong, and even forgive yourself. Begin the new year with a fresh start.
  • Attend events, such as a holiday musical, or just listen to holiday tunes with family.
  • Get the family involved in addressing holiday cards and/or baking with you.
  • Drive through the neighborhood after dark to look at the twinkling lights.
  • Ask for their suggestions and opinions when it comes to holiday plans.
  • Encourage them to join social activities in their community, such as the local senior’s center.
  • Encourage them to make a list of what they are thankful for so they can focus on the positive.
  • Talk to them about their sadness, sympathize and listen.
  • Adapt traditions if it is the only way to avoid pain in light of a loss that is still raw.
  • Decorate their room if they live in a care facility.
  • If you have small children, encourage them to read stories to them or do crafts with them.

Don’t be too forceful – it could lead to more depression.

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Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.

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