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Surviving the Holidays

group of men and women sitting around a table at a festive holiday party

It’s that time of year again…stores are in full-on decoration mode, and have been since about the end of September.  Media outlets of all kinds promote joy, peace and happiness in their pictures, recipes, crafts and step-by-step guides to ensure your own successful holiday venue.  And then, there’s the lists…office gift list, Santa gift list, holiday party grocery list, the “recipes from Pinterest” grocery list, and the “list” goes on and on.  Add in that with seasons changing, colder temps keep people indoors more than normal, days are getting shorter and sunlight is not as readily available.  It can feel stressful and overwhelming, which can then lead to feelings of guilt because “the holidays are supposed to feel wonderful and joyous”.  We feel as though we should be able to “snap out of it”.

The truth is, the holiday season, the period between Thanksgiving and the New Year, can be wonderful and joyous.  They can also be very stressful due to unrealistic expectations, excessive commitments, grief, financial pressures and the absence of friends and family during the season.  Many people report depression symptoms during this time that can be a response to demands of the season and characterized as holiday blues.  But for some, depression around the holiday season could be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mood disorder characterized by symptoms that follow a seasonal pattern, with winter onset being the most common.  It is categorized by the DSM V, the manual used to diagnose various mental health disorders, as a type of major depression, will full relief of symptoms during other seasons, and occurring for at least 2 years.  Holiday blues, on the other hand, refers to feelings of sadness, anxiousness and stress during the season, but that do not typically last beyond that time, and are usually situational. So how can we successfully head into this season?  Here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Have a plan. Whether it’s a budget to manage finances, or a weekly calendar to include necessary events, plan it out and do your best to stick to the plan.  Having a plan will not only help manage expectations, but will also help you be intentional with your resources beyond finances.  Ie:  your time, your attention,
  2. Practice self-care. This is probably not the best time to start training for a marathon or planning your first time to cook from Julia Child’s cookbook.   Be realistic with yourself, and set yourself up for success.  Take time daily to engage in something that matters to you.
  3. Recognize red flags. Excessive drinking, too much or too little sleep, avoidance and excessive practices with food (restricting, over-exercise to “prepare” for the holidays, labeling foods as bad and off limits) are all signs that you might not be effectively managing holiday stress.  Reach out for support from trusted friends or your therapist during this time.

If you notice that you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of depression including sadness that interferes with daily functioning, too little or too much sleep, hopeless feelings and/or thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help.  You do not have to do this alone.  Contact us to learn more.