With all the merriment going around, it’s easy to assume that happiness will come naturally during the holiday season. The fact is that many people deal with negative feelings during the holidays: stress, melancholy and even clinical depression.
Whether your problems are serious or simply a case of Scrooge-like feelings, there are ways to protect your mental health during the holiday season. Here are five tips for keeping a healthy mind during the holidays.
Let yourself feel your feelings
You don’t have to be full of joy just because people are singing Christmas carols. And if you are dealing with grief, job loss, or another major stressor, this time of year festivity can start to feel like forced cheer. The Mayo Clinic suggests that you should take time to acknowledge your feelings and not try to force yourself to feel a certain way just because it’s December.
Talk to friends
Most people are busy at this time of year, but that doesn’t mean that friends won’t make time for you if you need it. Reach out to family, friends, and neighbours if you need support, the Canadian Mental Health Association suggests. Or take it even wider: attend some community or cultural events, or volunteer with a food bank or another good cause.
Give yourself a break
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you just can’t get into the festive spirit. Remember, you can say “No, thank you” to invitations if they don’t fit in your schedule or you simply don’t want to attend. And you will still enjoy the holidays even if you buy the store-bought cookies and don’t DIY every decoration. There’s a lot of pressure to create a perfect holiday experience, but there’s no such thing–just the one you enjoy, and you won’t enjoy it if you’re stressed and overtaxed.
Watch out for SAD
Some people find the winter particularly tough, and not just because of the colder weather. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that starts and ends at the same time every year because it’s tied to the change of the seasons. Symptoms include persistent feelings of depression and sadness, trouble sleeping, and low energy. For most people, symptoms begin in the fall and continue through the winter, though some experience SAD in the warmer months. If you experience depression symptoms during the colder months of the year, the reduced daylight hours and stress of the holiday season can make things worse. The Mayo Clinic says that many people find relief with a light-therapy box, and regular exercise and omega-3 fatty acid supplements may also help. For some people, antidepressants and/or psychotherapy will be needed.
How to know when it’s more than the blues
If your sadness or anxiety persist and aren’t helped by getting out more or cutting back on stress, you could be experiencing clinical depression. Here are some of the symptoms:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness
- Changes in appetite, and weight gain or loss
- Oversleeping or insomnia
- Lack of energy, even for activities you previously enjoyed
- Thoughts of suicide or self harm–always seek help immediately if you experience this symptom
If that sounds like what you’re experiencing, talk to a medical professional like your family doctor in order to discuss your treatment options. Depression needs treatment just as any other medical issue, like diabetes or back pain, and there are effective treatment options that can help you feel better sooner than you think. Never hesitate to seek help.
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