If television ads are any indication, you’d think the holidays were the most joyous, fun, light-hearted time of the year for everyone. But for many people, especially those dealing with depression, the holidays are anything but joyous.
Around the holidays, family pressures, time-sensitive tasks and financial needs can lead to increased stress levels and allow depression to rise up. Experts recommend dealing with stress and depression head-on, and taking a proactive stance.
Here’s what you can do around the holidays to manage stress and depression:
1. Get to know your expectations—and change them if necessary. Setting realistic expectations about the holidays will help you to manage stress when things go wrong or unplanned events pop up, and prevent depression from creeping in when you can’t control everything.
2. Be realistic with your time. While it’s important to make room in your calendar for valued family traditions, learn how to say no to the less important things. Trying to do too much and be everything to everyone can leave you tired, overwrought and distressed, and open the door for depression.
3. Stick to a budget. Financial woes—and especially dealing with overspending in the aftermath of the holidays—can send even the most steadfast of people into a spiral. Set a limit for gift spending, and stick to it. Your checkbook will thank you.
4. Don’t go it alone. Spending too much time alone can often trigger depression. Get out and about town instead, participate in holiday musical concerts and local celebrations, or have coffee with a friend.
5. Know when you need to be alone. Be strategic about spending some time alone to help de-stress from the hustle and bustle of the season, and balance the need to detox after being with people or in stimulating environments.
6. Acknowledge your feelings. If this is the first holiday without a loved one, accept the fact that you’ll be feeling mournful and acknowledge your feelings.
7. Stay active. Overeating and sedentary events can lead to mood swings and lethargy. It’s OK to indulge in sweets and holiday meals, but too much sugar and overeating leads to decreased energy and mood swings. Stay active, go for walks after heavy meals, and reward yourself with small portions of desserts and holiday candies.
If you feel stress or depression increasing around the holidays, don’t go it alone. Reach out for help, and let a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional know you’re struggling.