The emotional and financial stress of the holidays can trigger depression in some people, but there are a number of ways to prevent it, a mental health expert says.
“There are so many social activities, chores and events during the holiday season. You simply can’t do it all. Keep your expectations reasonable and set realistic goals about what you can and cannot accomplish. Say ‘no’ when you need to; your priority is you and your family,” Patricia Woods, director of the liaison service at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, said in a hospital news release.
“Spread the joy out over the entire holiday season rather than placing all of the importance on one specific day or event. In doing so, you’ll be less likely to become overwhelmed,” she said.
“If you and a family member tend to bicker, this will probably be the case during the holidays as well. Prepare yourself for the inevitable. You can’t change your relationships in one day. Enjoy your time with your family without expecting them to be someone else on a holiday,” Woods advised.
Identify things that caused you the most stress in previous years and make changes. For example, instead of making six types of pies, make only two this year, she suggested.
“Make a special effort to eat healthy and nutritious meals and to include a little exercise in your daily activities. Taking care of yourself can help boost your mood and give you the extra energy you need to accomplish your tasks,” Woods said.
“Try to make time for others as well,” she added. “For example, you can volunteer at a soup kitchen or prepare a few gifts for families in need. Doing things for others who are less fortunate than yourself will help you to keep the holidays in perspective.”
“Rather than thinking about what you can’t buy, be grateful for what you have and all of the positive things in your life. Think about the extra time and joy that you have to share with your friends and family,” Woods said.
It’s also important to recognize signs of depression and take action, she said.
“If you are experiencing some signs of depression: crying spells, difficulty sleeping, feelings of sadness or guilt and appetite changes, reach out and get help. If these symptoms show up in your daily list, slow down and reach out to friends and family for extra support,” Woods said.
If the symptoms last for several weeks after the holidays, seek professional help from a qualified mental health professional to help you cope with your depression, she advised.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains how to beat the holiday blues.