Let’s face it – the holidays can be tough. Much as we like to think of them as joyous times of celebration with family and friends, the fact is that money worries, scheduling problems, family tensions, and other stresses of the season can all combine to make it hard to keep up the holiday spirit. And if you are suffering from depression – or have in the past – you need to be especially careful when dealing with holiday stress.
Consider this your mental and emotional wellness cheat sheet: 10 tips to help avoid stress and depression, and have a happier holiday season.
- Take time for self-care. Meditate. Exercise. Sleep. Don’t binge on food or alcohol. If you take medication, don’t miss doses. The things that keep you healthy and happy the rest of the year are especially important now.
- Make use of your support system. If you need professional help, get it. If you are seeing a therapist, consider booking extra meetings. And don’t forget your informal support system – the friends and family members you can lean on during the tough times.
- Practice kindness, to yourself and others. You are stressed – despite your best efforts, you will not be at your best 24 x 7. Give yourself a break, make amends if needed, and move on. And remember – this goes for everyone else, too!
- Forget perfection. Forget about the perfect gift. Focus on what matters. Forget the unimportant stuff, and forgive the bigger stuff. Don’t assume the worst. If it’s beyond your control, step back from it – worrying will not help you.
- Stick to a budget. Not just for gifts, but also for parties, travel, food, and drink. (Again, focus on what matters. It’s not the stuff.)
- Make time work for you, not against you. It seems like there’s always too much to do and not enough time to do it, but a lot of that comes down to habit and choice. Plan ahead. Don’t overbook. Don’t stay longer than you want to. Try to stay on schedule, but adjust your schedule if you need to.
- Learn to say no without guilt. (The best “no” I’ve heard of: “I’m afraid I must decline, for reasons that are secret.”)
- Find positive ways to remember loved ones. Almost every family has to deal with memories of loved ones who have died. Try to find ways to celebrate the happy times – go out to their favorite restaurant, hang their favorite ornament prominently, sing their favorite songs. It might not be easy, but remember the wise words of Dr. Seuss: Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
- Acknowledge your feelings. Try to find positive ways to remember loved ones, but if you feel grief, grieve. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- It might be SAD making you sad. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons, including diminished exposure to natural light. Don’t shrug it off as just the winter blues – if you think you may be suffering from SAD, talk to your doctor about treatment options. There are simple treatments than can help with SAD, such as long walks during daylight hours or exposure to a sun lamp for a short period each day.
The holidays can be tough, it’s true, but forewarned is forearmed. With a little planning and preparation, you can surf the stress, dodge the depression, and make this your happiest holiday season yet!
If you have tips that have helped you through the holidays, feel free to share them in the comments below!