December 07, 2010

Avoiding Holiday Depression

The holiday season is a time of joy, cheer, parties and family-oriented gatherings. But it can also be a time of self-evaluation, loneliness and anxiety about an uncertain future, causing "holiday blues."

Many factors cause holiday blues such as increased stress and fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints and the inability to be with family and friends. Increased demands of shopping, parties and houseguests can also cause tension. Even people who do not become depressed can develop other stress reactions during the holidays, such as headaches, excessive drinking, overeating and difficulty sleeping.

Although many people become depressed during the holiday season, even more respond to the excessive stress and anxiety once the holidays have passed. This post-holiday letdown can be the result of emotional disappointments experienced during the preceding months, as well as the physical reactions caused by excess fatigue and stress.

There are several ways to identify potential sources of holiday depression that can help you head off the blues:

s Keep expectations manageable. Set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the most important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.

s Remember that the holiday season does not automatically banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely. There is room for these feelings to be present, even if you choose not to express them.

s Let go of the past. Don’t be disappointed if your holidays are not like they used to be. Life brings changes. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Look toward the future.

s Do something for someone else. It is an old remedy, but it can help. Try volunteering some time to help others.

s Enjoy holiday activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations. Go window shopping without buying anything.

s Don’t drink too much. Excessive drinking will only make you more depressed.

s Don’t be afraid to try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a way you have not done before.

s Spend time with people who are supportive and who care about you. Reach out to make new friends if you are alone during special times. Contact someone you have lost touch with.

s Find time for yourself. Don’t spend all of your time providing activities for your family and friends.

Signs of depression can also include: noticeable weight loss/gain, difficulty sleeping, lack of energy, loss of interest in usual activities and thoughts of suicide. If someone exhibits any of these signs, a Primary Care Manager at Keller should be contacted immediately for proper treatment.
LPC Continuing Education

Editor’s note: The information in this article came from a Sierra Military Health Care article and from information provided by the Mental Health Association.

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