Holiday Blues

Feeling like Scrooge? You are not alone. Here is a practical guide to help you survive, and possibly enjoy this holiday season.

Treatment for holiday depression does not usually require medication. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, the most established treatment is bright light therapy. This type of therapy consists of looking at special broad spectrum bright lights from one-half to three hours a day, generally in the early morning hours (to prevent eye damage, do not stare into the light). Results are typically seen within a few days. Outdoor sunlight, sunlight through windows, bright home lights and commercially available lights can all be effective.

If you feel suicidal, notice changes in your personality, or your sadness is affecting you physically for more than two weeks, you may be experiencing a clinical depression and you should seek mental health treatment.

Tips for avoiding the holiday blues:

  • Pay attention to your moods and energy levels. If you realize that you start to feel down at the end of the summer, take action. A good offense is better than a defense.
  • Plan active events for yourself in advance of the fall and winter seasons.
  • Expose yourself to as much bright light as you can. If it is a sunny day, go outside as much as you can. If it is grey and overcast, use as much light indoors as you can.
  • Start physical activity before the humbugs get you.
  • Establish healthy eating and sleeping patterns.

30 Tips for coping with holiday stress and depression:

  1. Make realistic expectations for the holiday season.
  2. Set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle. Make a list and prioritize the important activities. This can help make holiday tasks more manageable. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
  3. Do not put all your energy into just one day
  4. Live and enjoy the present.
  5. Make time for yourself!
  6. Look to the future with optimism.
  7. Don't set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the good old days of the past.
  8. Get competition out of your activities.
  9. Set differences aside.
  10. If you are lonely, try volunteering some time to help others.
  11. Find holiday activities that are free, such as looking at holiday decorations; going window shopping without buying and watching the winter weather whether it's a snowflake, or a raindrop.
  12. Limit your drinking; excessive drinking only increases your feelings of depression.
  13. Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  14. Spend time with supportive and caring people.
  15. Reach out and make new friends.
  16. Make time to contact a long lost friend or relative and spread some holiday cheer.
  17. Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks. Learn to delegate.
  18. Set reasonable limits regarding the purchase of gifts.
  19. Set reasonable expectations about who you are going to visit and when.
  20. Don't take responsibility for everyone else's holiday happiness.
  21. If loved ones are absent during the holidays, if relationships are broken, or there have been other types of tragedies, do not pretend that they do not exist.
  22. Resolutions really do work. They are ways of developing goals
  23. Exercise regularly.
  24. Eat a healthy diet; watch your carbohydrate, fat, and caloric intake
  25. Do not read newspapers and turn off your television. Negative stories evoke negative emotions
  26. Practice relaxation and deep breathing techniques.
  27. Avoid sleep deprivation.
  28. Ask for help if you need it, share your feelings with others.
  29. Rethink solutions.
  30. Finally, reflect on the spirit of the holidays. Our three major holidays involve messages that are important to remember. Thanksgiving celebrates what we are grateful for. Christmas is the season of love and the importance of giving and sharing with others. New Year's is a time of new beginnings.

The common belief that the winter holidays are the times that most suicides are completed is false. Actually, November and December rank the lowest in the number of monthly suicides, while the spring and fall months rank the highest. While many people become depressed during the holiday season, even more experience excessive stress and anxiety once the holidays have passed related to disappointments and fatigue.

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