The holiday season can be a wonderful time of year in which we come together with loved ones, expressing gratitude, exchanging gifts and sharing hopes for the future. Regrettably, many of us miss out on the happiness that the holidays have to offer, as the season is known for triggering anxiety and depression. Shopping for gifts and spending money, making travel arrangements, reuniting with family and/or loved ones, planning or attending parties and confronting countless spreads of delicious, but diet-breaking food can be as stressful as they are enjoyable. Facing the holidays for the first time after the loss of a loved one or being separated from those close to us can make the months of November through January seem especially bleak. Many of us approach the season with hopes of comfort and joy but end up feeling disappointed when the holidays’ taxing reality doesn’t match our high expectations.
Take a breath, relax and enjoy the season, because fortunately, the holiday blues have a silver lining. You don’t have to fall into the same traps year after year that make you feel anxious and depressed. If your past holiday rituals haven’t filled you with seasonal cheer, we encourage you to establish new traditions. Since change isn’t always easy, you can build upon the holiday customs that you cherish and replace those that may no longer work for you. Be creative. “You don’t have to stay stuck in tradition for tradition’s sake,” says Jody Frank, LCSW, DCSW, CAS, co founding director of West Coast Counseling Center. “Your history can start now.”
Top 7 Tips to Reduce Holiday Anxiety and Depression:
- Delegate Responsibilities: Throwing a big holiday bash this season? Feel free to ask your friends and family to assist you with party planning and preparations. The holidays are about community; your loved ones will feel more a part of the celebration if they can contribute.
- Maintain balance in your diet: Holiday food is delicious, but a diet that consists entirely of sugar and fat can increase anxiety and depression. Feel free to indulge in seasonal treats, but don’t forget to take care of yourself by adding some nutritious meals and snacks into your holiday fare. Don’t forget to continue your exercise program. Something as simple as taking a walk around your neighborhood to enjoy the holiday decorations will help to lift your spirits.
- Be selective with your RSVPs: You are not obligated to attend every function or cook for every potluck. Assess all of your invitations and choose to attend the engagements you think will be most enjoyable and relaxing for you.
- Roll with the punches: Though the holiday season is often festive and joyous, our plans never go as seamlessly as we would have liked. It’s important to be able to accept minor changes to our plans.
- Slow down: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, give yourself permission to stop and take time for yourself. Meditation, yoga and breathing techniques can be useful coping strategies for managing stress.
- Avoid Alcohol and the temptations of “liquid courage”: Whether we’re opting to ease our nerves at a party or forget about a family fight, alcohol is an enticing quick fix. Unfortunately, the long term effects of drinking may outweigh any short term relief. If you’re feeling sad or stressed out, turn to a healthier outlet for your emotions; exercise, share a laugh with a loved one, go to a movie or take some time out of your holiday schedule to treat yourself.
- Recognize when you need outside support: Sharing our problems and anxieties can help us work through them. If you feel weighed down by the holidays, you may be comforted by leaning upon a friend or loved one. When this is not enough and more support is needed, this is the time to reach out to a therapist that can guide you out of the holiday blues.
During the holidays, West Coast Counseling Center will have psychotherapists on call and available throughout the season.
Cindy Busto, Jody Frank and Hollywood Mom Blog!