12 Ways to Avoid Depression This Holiday Season
Many people believe that the holidays are the “most wonderful time of the year.” But for others, the holiday season is a time of stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression. The holiday blues are real. And they have an especially strong effect on people with mental health conditions. In fact, 64% of people with a diagnosed mental health condition say the holidays make their symptoms worse, according to a survey by the National Alliance of Mental Illness. In this survey, 75% of respondents admitted that the holiday season contributes to feelings of sadness or dissatisfaction.
With shorter days and longer lines, it’s no wonder people are more likely to struggle with low moods during the winter months. The holidays seem to be filled with unrealistic expectations and unforeseen pressures that can cause mood and sleep dysregulation. The holidays can also be particularly painful if you’ve lost a loved one. Grief over the death of a spouse or other close family member tends to hit hardest during the holiday season. 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 overcome the holiday blues and keep depressive symptoms under control. To help you put a smile on your face this season, follow these mood-boosting, stress-busting tips.
12 Ways to Fend Off 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. Let friends and family know when you’re emotionally overwhelmed. And if you don’t have family or live too far away to connect with them, seek out a support group or see a therapist. Talking it out can help reduce your sense of isolation and provide relief from your symptoms. Seek professional help if necessary, but don’t fight your battles on your own.
2. Take A Time Out
Almost 50% of all American women experience increased stress during the holidays, according to the American Psychological Association. And this leads to some unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as eating or drinking alcohol. It’s important to find better ways to deal with the added stress. For example, 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. 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 contributed to a 37% increased risk for a heart attack on Christmas Eve, according to research in the British Medical Journal. Though it’s common to have that second helping of stuffing or an 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 overeating at holiday parties, bring a few healthy snacks with you. Emergency rations can be a lifesaver in the case of cravings brought on by low blood sugar. Brain healthy snacks include sugar-free dried fruits (blueberries or goji berries), raw vegetables (baby carrots, celery, or snap peas), nuts (almonds or walnuts). These good-for-you foods contain bliss-enhancing nutrients, which can elevate your mood and help stave off hunger until your next healthy meal.
7. Get Quality Sleep
There’s a strong correlation between sleep disturbances and depression. Research shows that about 75% of people with depression also have insomnia. And the association goes both ways. During the hectic holiday season, many people skimp on sleep, which can lead to increased irritability and moodiness. To enhance your moods, 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. Physical activity accelerates blood flow to all parts of the body, including the brain, and research shows that exercise is an effective antidepressant. 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. Scientific evidence shows that laughter truly is the best medicine and can work wonders in relieving anxiety and depression. Enjoying humor enhances the brain’s 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 keys to overcoming depression is to know which type you have. Brain imaging studies have shown that there are 7 types of depression, and each type requires a different treatment plan. Brain SPECT imaging can help identify your type so you can get the most effective treatment.
If you need help overcoming the holiday blues or more serious depression, Amen Clinics can help. We use brain SPECT imaging to more accurately diagnose and treat the 7 types of depression and we also look at the other biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that may be contributing to your symptoms.
If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health and overcome their symptoms at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.