Dealing with Depression and Anxiety During the Holidays
Useful Tips for Better Daily Living #2 (2007 Newsletter Archive)
Understanding the “Holiday Blues”
The holiday season can be a difficult time for many. It is meant to bring joy and celebration but sometimes this time of year can bring sadness and despair. Changes in life, such as being separated from family and friends, or living through the grief of a loss, can be especially hard.
Holiday blues are also thought to be primarily caused by expectation and comparison along with a lack of planning and action. People generally have high expectations for the holidays. We often hope that they will make up for a year gone wrong. We expect family members to become friendly, season’s greetings to be sent, gifts to be given, and happiness to reign. The mass media, through news stories, TV specials, and advertising, raise this hope for “what may be.” The reality of “what is” often falls short of the expectation and there is disappointment.
Negative memories may also be associated to the holiday season and those suffering with depression and other mood disorders can also be affected at this time of year due to change of daylight. Many people are lonely at this time of year if they are working or going to school without a way to get back to your family for the holiday season. You may have not been in Vancouver long enough to make many friends. It can be hard to find comfort.
Characteristics of “The Blues” are emotions – sadness, loneliness, depression, anxiety – and, although intense and unsettling, these emotions are generally short-lived and usually subside within a few weeks once a daily routine is resumed.
Other symptoms of the “Holiday Blues” may include:
- inability to sleep or sleeping too much
- changes in appetite causing weight loss or gain
- agitation and anxiety
- excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
- diminished ability to think clearly or concentrate
- decreased interest in activities that usually bring pleasure, such as:
The most important things to remember are: it’s a normal response to a stress-filled time of the year and you don’t have to suffer unnecessarily. If you anticipate feeling very lonely on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, there are ways that you can help yourself feel better and survive the holiday season.
26 Ways to Improve Your Mood During the Holiday Season:
1. Volunteering offers a way to interact with others, give to the community, and help keep your spirits up through giving. The Union Gospel Mission, Salvation Army, Carnegie Community Centre, or various churches will provide Christmas dinners and benefit by receiving help from volunteers. This is a good way to help yourself by not being alone and by helping others in need.
2. If you are in a new community, try to get an invitation somewhere for Christmas. Let others know that you would enjoy having dinner with them.
3. Invite someone to join you in celebration.
4. Find out what the community offers and participate in it. Go to the concerts and parades. Get involved.
5. Takes gifts to a children’s home.
6. Be active by going for walks. Getting some exercise will help keep mood levels up. Don’t stay cooped up inside too long. 20 minutes of exercise every day will raise endorphin levels and allow you to absorb what sunshine there is.
7. Be aware of your diet – try not to overindulge in alcohol or sweets. Alcohol and sugar can really affect mood and brings on ‘moodiness’.
8. Get enough rest: general self-care of the body is important.
9. Organize your time: make lists and prioritize.
10. If you are going home to be with family, bad memories might come up that can be really stressful. Take items from your current home that you have positive associations with. This might be a teddy bear, pictures of friends, a good book, or candles. Anything to help you feel more comfortable.
11. Plan time away from family. If you are going for a few days, it can be stressful. Getting away can help to lessen the stress.
12. If you find that you fall back into old patterns when you are around family members, it can he helpful to remember that you are an adult now and you have the ability to behave and respond in a different way. Spend some time planning ahead. What kinds of circumstances will occur that might bring up old feelings?
13. Be Prepared. There may be certain things that happen every year that drive you up the wall. This year, talk to the people involved ahead of time and try to defuse those situations before they occur.
14. If finances are a concern, be aware of this and set reasonable limits.
15. If there is a significant loss that you are reminded of this time of year, such as a death in the family or a divorce, it can be helpful not to push it away and pretend it didn’t happen. Recognize that there was a loss and take time to acknowledge it. Create a healthy way of remembering. Examples could include putting out favorite photographs and lighting a candle before them.
16. If you are in a new city or find yourself lonely, try to create new memories for yourself. You may enjoy events around the city such as the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden –
Dates and times: 4:30 to 9 p.m. every night, December 7th, 2007 through January 1st, 2008 (except December 25th when the Garden is closed).
17. Another tool to help you get through the Holiday Blues is to remember that the Christmas season will pass.
18. Also, remember that winter will pass. Winter does not last forever.
19. Remember to take your medication. Also, taking multi-vitamins and fish oil capsules daily can contribute to overall health and keep stress down. Other vitamin supplements such as Vitamin D or a B Complex can be helpful for mood.
20. Keep yourself busy to take your mind of things if that helps. Make plans to go out for lunch, go for walks, go to the movies or even curl up at home and watch a movie.
21. If you are suffering from clinical depression, getting some help can be beneficial this time of the year. Go to see a therapist, look for a support group, or contact the mental health team in your area. Get as much help and support as you can.
22. Give yourself a break — plan to prepare (or buy) one special meal, purchase one special gift, and take in one special event.
23. If you don’t like shopping, shop online or make small gifts.
24. Do your best not to create unrealistic expectations and don’t get caught up in comparisons.
25. Find someone to talk with who can help you through this difficult time — a family member, friend, a spiritual leader, or professional counsellor.
26. Call a crisis line in your time of need: Vancouver area 604-872-3311.
© Janel Ball 2007
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