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All Out of Holiday Cheer? 10 Tips for Beating Holiday Depression

All Out of Holiday Cheer? 10 Tips for Beating Holiday Depression

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    While the holiday season fills most people with joy, a significant number of people get down in the dumps around Christmastime. The reasons are plentiful: remembering lost loved ones, a bad experience during the holidays, loneliness, or just being overwhelmed can all dampen the Christmas spirit.

    It may surprise you to know that depression is actually less likely during the holidays than at other times during the year (see for example this research) but that hardly helps if you’re one of the unlucky ones. And while full-blown clinical depression drops off around this time of year, plenty of people are struck by “the holiday blues”, a general feeling of sadness or listlessness that is a specific reaction to the forced festiveness of the season.

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    If you find yourself feeling a little down this Christmas, try one or more of the following tips:

    1. Throw an “orphans” party.

    Being alone during the holidays can exacerbate existing feelings of depression and even cause them, so if you’re facing the prospect of a lonely Christmas, gather up your single friends and anyone you know whose family is far away and have a party. You’ll be doing yourself and them a favor.

    2. Get active.

    The winter months are a time of lowered physical activity, which in itself can make you feel lousy – especially combined with the attendant weight gain and lack of sunlight. Go sledding or skiing, take a hike (wilderness areas can be particularly beautiful this time of year), or just bundle up and take a long walk. The fresh air, sunlight, and physical activity will do you good.

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    3. Start a new tradition.

    One big reason people get wistful this time of year is that the traditions they’ve always practiced remind them of people who are gone – friends and relatives who have passed away, romantic partners that we’ve broken up with, or just family that’s far away. For really recent losses, you need to grieve properly, but for more distant losses, or plain old homesickness and nostalgia, there’s a time when it’s appropriate to abandon old traditions and replace them with new ones. Don’t forget those close to you, but break the association between the holiday and your loss.

    4. Have a salad.

    The fatty, sugary, and salty foods that make up a big part of traditional holiday eating can all make us feel sluggish and mopey, even if we have no particular reason to feel down. Add a few extra pounds and there’s another downer. While holiday treats may be unavoidable this time of year, try to eat them in moderation (we often eat when we’re depressed) and balance them with super-healthy choices that will make you feel good about yourself.

    5. Avoid the liquor.

    Just like holiday treats, alcohol is everywhere this time of year. Supermarkets are stacked high with holiday gift sets, parties feature egg nog and spiced wine, even the cookies have rum in them! Alas, alcohol is a depressant and if you’re already tending towards depression alcoholic beverages can speed up the downward spiral.  Try some juice, soda, or a “virgin” drink (a mixed drink with the alcohol left out) instead.

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    6. Find a “Blue Christmas” service near you.

    Many religious denominations are adding “Blue Christmas” services to their schedules, recognizing the special need to minister to those for whom Christmas is too much to bear. Many of these services are stripped of the cheerfulness of traditional services (as the pressure to be cheerful is often the last thing people grappling with depression need) and focus on aspects of the nativity story dealing with strength, triumph over adversity, and tests of faith. Many religious groups also offer counseling services, regardless of a person’s faith, which are generally free of religious pressure.

    7. Embrace imperfection.

    The holidays put a lot of pressure on us to do everything just right, whether we’re decorating our house, preparing a holiday dinner, or planning a night out. Try to lower your expectations to a realistic level – something more akin to every other day of the year. Take minor setbacks in stride, and leave the stress for another day.

    8. Get some light!

    Artificial light is no substitute for sunlight, but neither is sunlight at this time of year (unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, of course). Christmas is, after all, one of the shortest days of the year. Brighten the rest of the season by installing a few full-spectrum lights (like these compact fluorescents that can replace any standard bulb) and opening your curtains during daylight hours. (And see #2 above.)

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    9. Volunteer.

    Depression often comes with a feeling of uselessness, so make yourself useful by volunteering. There are plenty of worthy causes that need a hand this time of year: shelters, toy drives, food pantries, animal shelters, and lots more. Think about staying on, too – you might just find your vocation!

    10. Practice personal productivity.

    Stress is a killer this time of year, and personal productivity is intended first and foremost to minimize stress. Make lists, delegate tasks, break big projects into small tasks, and take things one at a time. You can get through this!

    Do you have any tips for our readers about dealing with the holiday blues? Lend a helping hand in the comments!

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    Last Updated on February 25, 2020

    Face Adversity with a Smile

    Face Adversity with a Smile

    I told my friend Graham that I often cycle the two miles from my house to the town centre but unfortunately there is a big hill on the route. He replied, ‘You mean fortunately.’ He explained that I should be glad of the extra exercise that the hill provided.

    My attitude to the hill has now changed. I used to grumble as I approached it but now I tell myself the following. This hill will exercise my heart and lungs. It will help me to lose weight and get fit. It will mean that I live longer. This hill is my friend. Finally as I wend my way up the incline I console myself with the thought of all those silly people who pay money to go to a gym and sit on stationery exercise bicycles when I can get the same value for free. I have a smug smile of satisfaction as I reach the top of the hill.

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    Problems are there to be faced and overcome. We cannot achieve anything with an easy life. Helen Keller was the first deaf and blind person to gain a University degree. Her activism and writing proved inspirational. She wrote, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

    One of the main determinants of success in life is our attitude towards adversity. From time to time we all face hardships, problems, accidents, afflictions and difficulties. Some are of our making but many confront us through no fault of our own. Whilst we cannot choose the adversity we can choose our attitude towards it.

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    Douglas Bader was 21 when in 1931 he had both legs amputated following a flying accident. He was determined to fly again and went on to become one of the leading flying aces in the Battle of Britain with 22 aerial victories over the Germans. He was an inspiration to others during the war. He said, “Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that. That’s nonsense. Make up your mind, you’ll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible.”

    How can you change your attitude towards the adversity that you face? Try these steps:

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    1. Confront the problem. Do not avoid it.
    2. Deliberately take a positive attitude and write down some benefits or advantages of the situation.
    3. Visualise how you will feel when you overcome this obstacle.
    4. Develop an action plan for how to tackle it.
    5. Smile and get cracking.

    The biographies of great people are littered with examples of how they took these kinds of steps to overcome the difficulties they faced. The common thread is that they did not become defeatist or depressed. They chose their attitude. They opted to be positive. They took on the challenge. They won.

    Featured photo credit: Jamie Brown via unsplash.com

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