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12 Ways to Avoid Depression This Holiday Season

Many people believe that the holidays are the “most wonderful time of the year.” But many others regard the seasons as a time of additional stress, anxiety and depression. With shorter days and longer lines, it’s no wonder people are more likely to feel overwhelmed and have greater difficulty regulating their mood during the winter months.

The holidays seem to be filled with unrealistic expectations and unforeseen pressures that can cause mood and sleep dysregulation. Unaddressed, these forces have the power to steal your joy, sabotage your health and trigger unproductive behaviors, which can absolutely ruin your holiday.

But with some easy-to-implement strategies, it’s possible to manage the additional busyness that accompanies the holidays. To help you survive the seasons, follow these mood-boosting, stress-busting tips…

12 Ways to Refuse the Holiday Blues

1. Talk It Out

Many people aren’t comfortable talking about their feelings. However, opening up about personal struggles can have big benefits for those who deal with depression. Whether in a support group or with a therapist, talking it out can help reduce your sense of isolation and provide relief from your symptoms. Let friends and family know when you’re emotionally overwhelmed. Seek professional help if necessary, but don’t fight your battles on your own.

2. Take a Time Out

Somewhere in your busy schedule, make time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes a day by yourself – without distractions – may refresh your thoughts. Find something that reduces stress, clears your mind, slows your breathing and restores inner calm. Repeating simple words like “May I be safe and secure” can increase positive emotions and decrease negative ones. Research has shown that such Loving Kindness Meditations (LKM) can minimize pain, migraine headaches and the symptoms of PTSD.

3. Just Say No

Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and frustrated. Colleagues and friends will understand if you can’t participate in every project or social gathering. The holidays can make people feel out of control and at the mercy of traditions or expectations. But you can take control of the holidays by refusing to let them control you. Say no to events and activities that aren’t making you happy or are causing holiday stress.

4. Reach Out

Though isolating yourself during tough times may feel like the safest option, closing yourself off from the world can further aggravate your problems. Resist the urge to shut out the individuals who can offer you encouragement and support – friends, family and trusted community or religious leaders. Having a strong community means that support is just a phone call, email or visit away. Spending time in a positive community of like-minded people is a wonderful way to boost your bliss hormones, such as oxytocin.

5. Stick to Your Plan

Don’t abandon your daily healthy habits. Refuse to let the holidays become an excuse to put your diet on hold until the New Year. This kind of binge mentality has made December 25th the day of the year with the highest number of hospital admissions for heart attacks. Though it’s common to have that second helping of stuffing or extra slice of pie during the holidays, don’t lose sight of your nutrition plan. Your heart, and life, may depend on it.

6. Bring a Healthy Snack

To avoid a snack attack at a holiday party, bring along healthy snacks when food options are limited. Emergency rations can be a lifesaver in the case of cravings brought on by low blood sugar. Examples of healthy snacks are: sugar free dried fruits (raisins, cranberries and cherries), vegetables (baby carrots, celery and snap peas), nuts (almonds and pecans). Lean protein, raw spinach and walnuts contain bliss-enhancing nutrients, which can elevate your mood and help stave off hunger until your next healthy meal.

7. Get Quality Sleep

To keep up with the increased demands of the hectic holiday season, many people sacrifice quality sleep. Lack of sleep often leads to irritability, moodiness, poor judgment, and illness, which can make it that much harder to accomplish everything on your to-do list. To ensure that you have the energy you need to get the most out of the holiday season, make sure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

8. Take It Outside

Instead of wasting the holidays watching marathons on TV or playing video games, get the whole family outside for brain safe activities, like a long, brisk walk. Walking can help you clear your mind, decrease anxiety, improve your mood and burn some calories all at the same time. Exercise accelerates blood flow to all parts of the body, including the brain. It’s recommended to get 30 to 45 minutes of exercise daily.

9. Practice Gratitude

Did you know that practicing gratitude can make your brain work better? Research has demonstrated that people who express gratitude on a regular basis are healthier, more optimistic, make more progress toward their goals, have a greater sense of well-being, and are more helpful to others. Focusing on the things you’re thankful for helps to calm the deep limbic or emotional areas of your brain. Write down three things that you’re grateful for every day. Then experience the joy that gratitude can bring.

10. Relaxing Music

There are a variety of relaxation methods, including: meditating, diaphragmatic breathing and listening to brain-enhancing music. Remaining in a blissful state of mind is easier to accomplish when you have a happy tune running through your head. Listen to brain enhancing music specifically composed to enhance mood, memory, focus, motivation and inspiration.

11. Learn to Laugh

When all else fails, laugh. Laughing releases stress-reducing endorphins into your bloodstream. Laughter truly is the best medicine and can work wonders in relieving anxiety and depression. Enjoying humor enhances the pleasure centers without wearing them out. Having fun and laughing are some of the best ways to lower stress and release feel-good neurotransmitters.

12. Take a Look

Knowing how your brain works is critical to getting the help you need. One of the best ways you can change your life is with brain SPECT imaging. SPECT helps people understand the underlying psychological or medical reasons for their conditions.

Our Full Evaluation of your biological/psychological/social/spiritual history, coupled with two brain SPECT imaging scans (in concentrating and resting states), cognitive testing, and clinical assessment is designed to address your unique needs and offer targeted treatment options.

At Amen Clinics, we’re committed to treating our patients with the least toxic, most effective regimen. For more information on how SPECT imaging can provide a customized treatment plan to help reduce stress and improve your mood, call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit us online to schedule a visit.

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COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for sharing the great information Dr.Amen!

  2. Christine A. VanDerWyk says:

    Recently lost my dearest mother on July 6th, 2017. This is my first holiday season without my younger brother, father, mother. My son lives in Calif. – my sister lives in Michigan. I live alone and have no car or public transportation. So, I did do some Christmas decorating in this apt. Everything I read in this article was very helpful. Thank you for sharing these survival skills. Sincerely.

  3. Patricia. Feuerstein says:

    I have always watched your pbs shows and just received your change your brain…book. Anxiety and depression try to rule my life. Im looking forward to reading your book and using the info to help. Thank you:

  4. Julie says:

    I have a difficult time around the holidays. Both of my grandparents died, although a few years apart around this time of year. I also feel that a lot of people act a certain way this time of year but the rest of the year the complete opposite, and may treat you as if you’re invisible. I dont like being around what I feel are phony people with plastic smiles that “act” like they care. How hard is it to pick up the phone, and ask how you are feeling? This is the first year I feel completly blah about Christmas. My meds I’m taking are Gabapentin 100mg 3 times (Migraine)/ day, Diovan 160mg once / day, (Blood pressure) don’t current have but high blood pressure does run in my family. Atorvastatin 20mg once / day (Cholesterol) the same the prior . Could these meds possibly be causing my mood changes? Thank you for your help!

  5. Connie Jackson says:

    Excellent article- great reminders on having a better day. Thank you Amen Clinics!

  6. michelle bollhorst says:

    thank you for your advice but without getting help, there is nothing that can help me get through each day

  7. Tim says:

    Dr amen Appreciate your help
    Your emails are the only ones worth opening
    If there is anyway I could ever get a free SPECT scan let me no I could get to your clinic in Georgia
    , Tim Cyr

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