The holidays are often painted as a pretty picture from advertisers and sometimes anything other than smiles covered in the foam from a cup of hot chocolate is just being a Scrooge.
Here are tips on being positive and cheating the holiday blues this year.
For me, personally, the holidays is an amazing and yet, still stressful time for a couple of reasons including the pressure to make sure that I find the perfect gift for everyone on my list and making sure that I don’t forget someone; the cash to make sure I can afford this even when I know the money is already close to being in the red; the winter usually is cold here in Nashville and there is little that makes me want to get outside (even though I’ve never been diagnosed with seasonal depression (actually a medical issue, but called Seasonal Affective Disorder) and I swear I think I have it; then the traveling and having to make a decisions of where I spend the limited amount of time (family, friends, and sometimes even the bar. Come’on we all need a drink every now and then). Some people experience holiday depression and it’s legit.
Judith Akin, M.D., assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says, “This is a time of year where individuals can be more aware of sadness. We can be stressed because we are away from our families; we can be stressed because we are WITH our families; we can be aware of money problems.”
See? I’m not the only one and you are probably someone that may have experienced some of these same feelings or even more harsh than the ones I listed. That’s okay! But what is the cause and tips to help us?
Saturday, December 21 is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day (which means the longest night) of the year here in the US.
“A lack of light may be an even bigger factor in stress and depression than the holidays,” she says. “Weather is bad, we stay inside, and lot of us go to work in the dark and come in the dark.”
Akin offers tips for dealing with some of the common problems of the season.❜
For Those Celebrating Alone:
- Fix a special meal (or plan ahead and get some special takeout).
- Enjoy non-traditional holiday fun: go for a long walk, go to the movies, spend the day on an art or house project that you can enjoy.
- Let co-workers and friends know that you are alone; often an extra person at a holiday gathering can make it more fun for everybody.
- Check online for local agencies that need help and give part of your day to help others.
- Even if you can’t be there in person, connect with family and friends by phone, email or text and pass along love and good wishes.
For Those Celebrating with Family:
- Don’t try to do too much—strive to keep expectations in balance.
- Don’t try to match some ideal of the “perfect” holiday. Look for happiness in what you are able to do and keep your expectations realistic.
- At gatherings, try to find common ground with those with whom you might disagree, and avoid conversation topics of obvious conflict.
- Don’t overspend on gifts or make gift-giving the centerpiece of the celebration. Be sensitive that some people may be facing financial challenges.
For Those Feeling Stressed or Who May Have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):
- Avoid being a couch potato—inactivity and staying indoors can add to the problem.
- Avoid consuming too much alcohol or caffeine.
- Stay physically active—even if it’s cold, bundle up and go for a walk.
- Expose yourself to light. An artificial light source with full spectrum light of 10,000 lux works to relieve signs of depression or seasonal affective disorder in many people.
- Strive to eat in a healthy manner. Often a carbohydrate craving strikes during the darkest time of the year, and resisting it can help with feelings of sadness.
- Seek counseling to address stressors and help find solutions to problems.
- Have a regular physical exam to rule out physical causes such as anemia, thyroid problems, or a diminished vitamin D level.
Pretty simple, eh? So, take the chance to begin being positive this year (even more if you already are) and join me in beating holiday blues!
I’m Still Josh. You still be YOU!!!
This article was originally published on December 29, 2013.
Seasonal Affective Disorder | Definition and Patient Education (Dec 2005). Healthline. Licensed from Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health. ©Gale Cengage Learning. Retrieved December 28, 2013 from http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/seasonal-affective-disorder
Holiday Depression: Statistics & How to Deal (March 2012). Healthline. Retrieved December 28, 2013 from http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holidays
Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Office of News and Communications) Reporter. (Dec 2013). Newswise. Retrieved December 28, 2013 from VUMC Source Newsroom from http://newswise.com/articles/between-hallmark-and-heartache-vanderbilt-psychiatrist-offers-tips-for-how-to-avoid-holiday-stress-and-unhappiness