There are many events to look forward to during the holidays - visiting friends and family, attending festive parties and gatherings, and eating tasty meals. Unfortunately, a depressive episode known as the holiday blues can inhibit, or even be triggered by, seasonal activities.
Depression is the most common mental condition affecting an estimated 16 percent of adults. According to Robert Hales, chair of the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, stressful events, many of which occur during the holidays, may trigger up to 50 percent of all depressive episodes!
Learning more about the holiday blues and methods of combatting them can help keep your holidays happy and healthy.
Recognizing the Holiday Blues
The holiday blues most frequently occur during times of change and stress. With so many seasonal obligations it is not surprising that these many changes and experiences cause people to experience a great deal of stress. As holiday-related commitments and expectations increase you can experience depressive episodes known as the holiday blues.
Nearly 14 percent of American’s experience depression during the holiday season. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the symptoms and causes so you can effectively recognize it in yourself or others.
The following symptoms are common to both the holiday blues and depression.
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Physical or mental fatigue
- Lack of interest in previously engaging activities
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Sleeping more than usual
- Avoiding social interaction
Identifying the signs of depression early can help you acquire the help you need.
Common Causes of the Holiday Blues
There are many contributing factors that can result in the holiday blues. Even though it may not be obvious, you may unknowingly suffer from depression because symptoms are frequently disregarded or overlooked.
The exhausting aspects of the holidays can cause you to experience additional stress resulting in depression.
The following triggers can contribute to feeling lonely and depressed during the holidays. In some cases, these elements can cause a person to fall into a severe case of the holiday blues.
- Over commitment or spreading oneself too thin
- Setting unachievable goals
- Workplace or social stress and anxiety
- Unrealistic holiday expectations
- Commercialization malaise
- Financial anxiety
- Not being with friends or family
- Lack of sleep
- Time change resulting in lack of sun exposure
- Inactivity and lack of exercise
Tips for Keeping the Holiday Blues Away
With so much going on during the holidays it may seem impossible to manage your time, let alone maintain a healthy stress level. However, the following tips can help you protect against neurological and physical stress, which may dissuade the holiday blues.
1: Make Sleep a Priority
One of the most common contributors of depression is a lack of sleep – you can learn more about the importance of sleep here. As the weather changes and we get fewer daylight hours, the body requires more sleep to maintain proper function. For those who don’t get enough sleep as it is, this can easily push them into a depressive state.
Be sure to dedicate at least eight hours per night to sleeping. If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, consider taking a high-quality supplement like HoltraCeuticals’ Sleep Tight.
2: Interact With Others
For many people, spending time with loved ones is a holiday tradition. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to do so. Even if you can’t make it home for the holidays, it’s important to engage and socialize with other people.
Pursuing volunteer opportunities or group activities can help limit the impact of being unable to visit friends and family during the holidays.
3: Set a Budget and Stick to It
A primary source of stress during the holidays is centered around finances. Being aware of your financial position before the holidays can help you better prepare and be realistic about your spending. Planning a budget prior to the chaos of the holidays, and responsibly following it, can help alleviate spending induced anxiety.
4: Be Willing to Say No
Many are aware that over commitment can lead to high stress levels and anxiety. During the holidays people are far more prone to overbooking themselves resulting in a mental or physical crash.
Even though there may be an endless number of fun gatherings to attend or people to see, it is ok, and even healthy, to turn them down. Making sure your schedule is well-balanced helps keep stress down, reducing the risk of developing the holiday blues.
5: Exercise in the Sun
Lack of sun exposure and reduced physical activity are significant contributors to wintertime depression. Less sunlight means the body is less energetic, which may cause you to feel lethargic and unmotivated to exercise. However, engaging in physical activity in what little sunlight is available can help you get energized and improve your mood.
6: Be Open About Your Struggles
Even though it may not seem like it, the holidays are a difficult time for many people. Understanding that you’re not alone in your depression is important. Although it may not be the easiest activity, sharing your challenges or hardships with others can be both a cathartic and healthy action that combats wintertime depression.
7: Avoid Family Stress
Family gatherings are usually well intentioned but most people know that bringing the family together physically can sometimes tear them apart emotionally.
Forgiving past differences between family members is perhaps the healthiest method of resolving familial trauma and stress. If that does not seem feasible, avoid topics that are emotionally charged until they can be discussed at an appropriate time.
If stressful moments develop at a family gathering, it may be best to remove yourself from the situation and allow those involved to calm down and continue the discussion at a later time. You can find even more stress-reducing tips here.
Fending Off the Winter Woes
As the holidays approach, some may be excitedly envisioning the coming festivities while others are stressing over their finances and the impending arrival of relatives. Regardless of the situation, it’s important to safeguard yourself from the holiday blues by preparing for common contributors of stress and depression.
Using the tips above can help prevent the development of winter worries and increase the odds of having a happy healthy holiday!