Tips for Avoiding Holiday Depression Triggers
High expectations, money woes, and other holiday hazards can spell trouble for anyone, but especially those prone to depression. With a bit of foresight and planning, however, holidays can leave you feeling up, not down. Follow these tips for a successful holiday.
Avoid family conflict
There are a couple ways to save your sanity at family gatherings, says Jeffrey Greeson, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, N.C.
If you know there are going to be conflicts, prepare a neutral response, such as, “Let’s talk about that another time,” or, “I can see how you would feel that way.”
Then escape to the restroom, offer to help in the kitchen, or go hang out with the kids. And it always helps to call a good friend if you need a sympathetic ear.
Debbie Thurman, a 57-year-old from Monroe, Va., suffered from depression for years, and the holidays made it worse. From decorating to finding the perfect gifts, she felt overwhelmed.
At a support group’s suggestion, she listed the simple things that really made her family happy, and she began traditions that helped the less fortunate.
“When you take your eyes off of yourself and focus on those who have far less than you do, you can’t be depressed,” she says. “I learned to be grateful for the blessings I had, and I had a lot.”
Schedule some sleep
Holiday activities easily can interfere with your sleep schedule. But studies have shown there is a link between sleep loss and depression, so you need to be extra careful about cutting back on sleep to get everything done.
Try to get to bed and wake up at approximately the same time every day; avoid large meals and physical activity such as dancing within a few hours of bedtime; and make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary, free from TV or other distractions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Focus on what matters
The holidays shouldn’t be all about the presents, but financial woes can make it easy to lose sight of that.
Rein in the stress (and cost) by organizing a gift exchange with friends or family. You can also bake your gifts, or create traditions such as having a large potluck meal followed by a walk outside or board games by the fire.
“I think saying no is more of a relief instead of stretching and spending more than you have and still not doing enough,” Dr. Sharp says.
Cut back on commitments
If you feel like you just can’t get through one more holiday gathering, it’s OK to sit them out.
“One of the things about holiday stress we forget is that Thanksgiving and Christmas are both 24 hours and that’s it,” says Pauline Wallin, PhD, an author and clinical psychologist in Camp Hill, Penn.
Wallin recommends figuring out what you need to get through those 24 hours, such as volunteering, going on vacation, or visiting a shelter or someone who is alone. Focusing on others can help alleviate depression.
By Tammy Worth (http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20550695,00.html)
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