December is filled with many holidays. It is a happy time for most but there are many people that experience depression this time of the year. Whether it is due to the loss of loved ones, being alone or lack of sunlight. The winter blues is a real illness and should be taken seriously. Here are some tips to help get everyone through the holidays and winter blues.
The best plan of action is to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
Express your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. But try to set a time limit on those tears. If you try to find one thing to be grateful for a day, more things will come and you will one day realize you are no longer sad.
Check on people. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others, is also a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. It is amazing how helping others will help you in return, and maybe even more than the people you were helping.
Be Realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Be open to change and realize that it is inevitable.
Love your family. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside any arguments, differences until a more appropriate time for discussion. The dinner table is not the time to bring up conflict in the family nor verbally attack a family member. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
Don’t overspend. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
Try these alternatives:
- Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
- Give homemade gifts. (cookies, cakes, bath soaps etc.)
- Start a family gift exchange.
Make a list and check it twice. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
Don’t be a people pleaser. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
Stay healthy, don’t forget to workout. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
Relax, relate, release. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some options may include:
- Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Getting a massage.
- Reading a book.
Seek professional help if you need it. You may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable, hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Please never be ashamed to seek help. The Crisis Call Center is available 24 hours a day (800)273-8255.
BMWK, Have you ever experienced holiday blues?