We are overloaded with responsibilities, and we tend to have higher expectations for ourselves and others from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. What can you do to keep that stress from turning into the holiday blues or depression?
First, let’s take a look at the common triggers that can lead to the holiday blues:
- Unrealistic expectations
- Financial concerns
- Family conflict
- Lack of sleep and fatigue
- Bad memories
- Unhealthy choices
Here are 9 ways to combat these holiday depression triggers and keep your spirits bright during the holidays:
Set realistic expectations
It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure to create the perfect holiday. You want to find the best gifts, decorate everything just so, prepare a wonderful meal and be a gracious hostess. By trying to do it all, we put extra stress on ourselves – and our loved ones – during the holidays.
If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by your to-do list and no longer enjoying the process of preparing for the holidays, it may be time to cut back. Ask your family what they like the most about the holidays and concentrate on making those areas special. Enlist their help and create memories together.
Create a holiday budget
Overspending during the holiday season can also put a damper on your spirits. It’s harder to enjoy the holidays if you are feeling stressed about your finances. Make a budget that includes decorating, food, gifts, travel and even New Year’s Eve plans. Then, stick to it.
Plan for family conflict
If you know there will be conflicts at Christmas or New Year’s gatherings, prepare yourself and your immediate family ahead of time. Be ready to offer a neutral response to diffuse an argument. Then, remove yourself from the situation by offering to help out in the kitchen or spending time with the kids. If the idea of family gatherings seems more stressful and depressing than positive and enjoyable, you may want to consider making it a brief visit, staying home or creating a new holiday tradition.
Get some sleep
Holiday activities and planning can cut into your sleep schedule. You may be spending more evenings attending social events. You may stay up late to wrap presents or address your holiday cards. Studies show that there can be a link between depression and sleep loss. Make sure you are getting enough sleep so that you feel rested and ready to tackle the day.
Learn to grieve
If you have lost someone close to you, the holidays can be especially difficult and you may feel more down than other times of the year. You may be angry at the person for leaving you alone during the holidays. On the other hand, you may feel guilty if you enjoy yourself. Give yourself permission to grieve and also give yourself permission to enjoy the holidays.
Keep up good habits
It’s easy to get derailed from your healthy habits during the holiday season. Try to maintain your good habits, such as eating right, exercising, sleeping and managing stress. Just because you overindulge at the dessert table doesn’t mean you should give up on your goals. Start fresh the next day with your regular routine.
Exercise is one of the first things to go in the holiday shuffle. Be sure to keep to your regular routine – it will help you ward off stress and the holiday blues. Try not to use alcohol to cope with holiday depression. Alcohol can intensify your emotions and leave you feeling worse. Also, be safe on New Year’s Eve.
Get some sunshine
The dark, dreary days of winter may also affect your mood during the holidays. You may experience seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Approximately 10-20% of people in the US may experience a mild case of SAD that can be compounded by holiday stress. Try to get some sunshine if you can, or you may want to talk to your doctor about light therapy.
While it’s great to volunteer or donate to charity any time of year, it can help put things into perspective during the chaotic holiday season. Make it a family tradition to volunteer and help those who are having a difficult time. Or, choose a charity together and make a donation.
Remember what matters
It’s easy to get caught up in the over-commercialization of the holidays. Remember what’s important during the holiday season. Spend time with people who make you laugh and smile. Stick with simple traditions so you aren’t overwhelmed by planning and expenses.
Focus on what is meaningful to you and your family, and you will create a fun, memorable holiday season. What are your favorite holiday traditions?