Emotional Fitness

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10 Tools for Dealing with Holiday Depression

How to keep the seasonal blues at bay

There has been a long standing myth that suicide rates increase over the holiday season. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is completely false. What is true is that the rates of depression and stress do increase. Here are ten solid tools to help you and deal if Santa also brings you some holiday blues.

  1. Keep your expectations balanced. You won’t get everything you want, things will go wrong, and you won’t feel like Bing Crosby singing"White Christmas." Remember that everything doesn't have to be perfect and don't worry about things that are out of your control.
  2. Don’t try to do too much. Fatigue, over-scheduling, and taking on too many tasks can dampen your spirits. Learn to say no, delegate as much as possible and manage your time wisely. If you choose to do less you will have more energy to enjoy the most important part of the season—friends and family.
  3. Don’t isolate. If you’re feeling left out, then get out of the house and find some way to join in. There are hundreds of places you can go to hear music, enjoy the sights or help those less fortunate.
  4. Don’t overspend. Create a reasonable budget and stick to it. Remember it’s not about the presents, it’s about the presence.
  5. It’s appropriate to mourn if you’re separated from or have lost loved ones. If you can’t be with those you love make plans to celebrate again when you can all be together.
  6. Many people suffer depression due to a lack of sunlight because of shorter days and bad whether. Using a full spectrum lamp for twenty minutes a day can lessen this type of depression, called SAD (seasonal affectiveness disorder).
  7. Watch your diet and remember to exercise. It’s normal to eat more during the holidays, but be aware of how certain foods affect your mood. If you eat fats and sweets, you will have less energy, which can make you feel more stressed and run down. It can be very helpful to take a walk before and/or after a big holiday meal.
  8. Be aware of the Post Holiday Syndrome. When all the hustle and bustle suddenly stops and you have to get back to the daily grind, it can be a real let down. Ease out of all the fun by planning a rest day toward the end of the season.
  9. Plan ahead. Many people don't go to the mall after Thanksgiving to avoid shopping stress and others do much of their party prep in advance.
  10. Learn forgiveness and acceptance. If some of your relatives have always acted out or made you feel bad, chances are that won’t change. If you know what you're getting into, it will be easier to not let them push your buttons. If things get uncomfortable, go to a movie or for a drive and adjust your attitude.

May the holidays bring you all the love and joy they can, and may the true meaning of the season touch your heart.

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Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, columnist, and radio host. His latest book is The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.

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