Avoiding the Holiday Blues

December 9, 2011

We hope that your holiday season is full of joy, cheer, parties and family gatherings. But for many people, it is a time of mild depression that some people refer to as the "Blues". We would like to share with you some of the causes of Holiday Blues and how, in turn, we can cope with them during this holiday season.

What Causes Holiday Blues?
Many factors can cause the "holiday blues": stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints, and the inability to be with one's family and friends. The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions and house guests also contribute to feelings of tension. People may also develop other stress responses such as headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping. Even more people experience post-holiday let down after January 1.

Studies show that some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which results from being exposed to fewer hours of sunlight as the days grow shorter during the winter months. Phototherapy, a treatment involving a few hours of exposure to intense light, is shown to be effective in relieving depressive symptoms in patients with SAD.

Other studies on the benefits of phototherapy found that exposure to early morning sunlight can be effective in relieving seasonal depression.

Coping with Stress & Depression During the Holidays

Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself.

Continue a healthy exercise routine and choose family activities that take you outside for some exercise.

A morning walk in the sunshine will give you a boost for the day.

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 will only increase your feelings of depression.

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.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Sources: Mayo Health Clinic and MHA

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