As soon as November rolls around, stores begin to blend Thanks Giving decorations with Christmas decorations, and there’s barely a break in the holiday routine to prepare for New Year. Although the magic of the holidays lies in its ability to remind us of what’s truly important in life, and how to be grateful and optimistic for the future, it can also be the source of a lot of stress, and even depression.
When everyone else seems happier than usual, it can make someone who feels depressed wonder why he can’t get in the holiday spirit. If this happens to you during the holidays, there are a number of ways to prevent the stress and hold the holiday blues at bay:
1. Make a workout routine
Working out is good for you in so many ways. It gets your body in shape, releases endorphins and may improve your body image. With all the fatty desserts and drinks served around the holidays, many people tend to worry about their weight. Having a consistent workout routine will put you on the right path to feeling physically and mentally healthy while maintaining positive thinking through the holidays.
2. Eat healthy
It’s hard to avoid all the cookies, cakes and pies served around this time, but unfortunately such things are full of sugar and fats that will slow you down and leave you feeling sluggish. Why does something that tastes so good have such negative effects? According to a research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PANS), sugar actually blocks neurons in the brain that keep you feeling awake.
Aside from the mental slow down, desserts are also high in calories, which might lead to unnecessary worrying and stressing about weight and body image. With everything else going on during the holidays, why give yourself something else to worry about?
3. Don’t overindulge
Holiday cheer is generated through the warmth and love of family, but there’s also the artificial cheer of alcohol. Whether it’s eggnog, peppermint schnapps or a few glasses of wine, the presence of alcohol at holiday gatherings can lead to excessive consumption, leaving you wiped and incapable of functioning properly the next day. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, even overdrinking on one day can inhibit neurotransmitters in the brain and cause negative effects, such as depression and changes in mood, the next day.
4. Create a budget
Buying presents and planning parties is extremely stressful, especially on your bank account. By making a budget, you’ll be better able to allocate your funds. It doesn’t make sense to overspend during the holidays if it later leads to regret and financial instability. A budget can guide present buying, and reduce stress by establishing a maximum spending limit.
5. Make time for yourself
People enjoy participating in all of the festivities, but everyone needs time alone to unwind, especially parents. If you don’t take time to do something just for yourself, the stress will keep building up until it becomes unbearable. Even if it is just for a few minutes every day, do something by yourself that’s both calming and enjoyable.
6. Think outside the box and invent a new tradition
Holidays can remind people of an ex, lost love, friends that have moved on and family members who have passed away. While all of those memories help keep loved ones alive, they can also be a source of sadness and nostalgia. When people aren’t there anymore, some traditions just aren’t the same anymore. Instead of mourning, it might be better to try creating a new tradition with your family or friends. You won’t forget the good times you had, and you can also create new memories doing new activities.
7. Bundle up
If you’re feeling down, throw on a jacket and go for a nature walk. A recent study by Stanford University researchers showed that being outside in nature can reduce depression. The study showed walking 90 minutes in a natural setting, not an urban setting, reduced activity in the areas of the brain linked to depression. You might not have 90 minutes to walk in the park, but don’t feel discouraged. As the saying goes, anything is better than nothing. Even a few minutes’ walk will help you feel refreshed.
8. Be realistic
One of the reasons people feel so down during the holidays has to do with the fact that reality rarely meets expectations. Nothing ever works out exactly as planned or turns out ‘perfect.’ Get rid of expectations altogether and enjoy the holidays with all its surprises, most of which will be pleasant.
Even so, some people experience depression and anxiety that isn’t just due to the holidays. If you or a loved one is facing mental health issues and is in need of further help, call the California Mental Health Helpline to speak with a professional today.