Beat the Holiday Blues!

The holidays are finally here. The Christmas lights are up, the shopping is nearly done, the party-planning is in full swing. So why do you feel unfulfilled, empty, or even a little depressed?

First of all, most of us experience at least a mild dip in our mood as the day gets shorter and weather turns colder. In more serious cases, we may have what psychiatrists now call a Depressive Disorder With Seasonal Pattern, more commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In some people, this is characterized by low energy, reluctance to socialize, and thoughts of hopelessness. Other people may find themselves having excessive energy, overeating, and a craving for carbohydrates.

Here are some things you can do to lift your spirits:

1. Know Your Priorities

You may have received more than a handful of invitations to parties and holiday dinners. You may even be hosting one or two yourself. If this is the case, you may suddenly find that you have little time for what you usually enjoy doing: hobbies, exercise, and quality time with your kids and pets. Learn to say no to some of the invitations, or plan on leaving early so you can still read a bedtime story with your kid. Be sure you have time for people who matter to you (see point #5, below).

When planning a party, accept that not everything has to be perfect. A little shortcut here and there, such as store bought desserts, can save you a ton of stress. Or host a potluck instead so your guests can bring their favorite dish to share. People tend to leave with fonder memories when they have a good time with friends than when they are merely impressed with the food and décor.

2. Watch Your Spending

Budgeting is also an important consideration, especially when you are shopping for presents. Sure, the discounts are irresistible, but how many scarves does Aunt Shelly really need? If you spend $30 on each gift for every friend and family member, it adds up quickly, and you probably wouldn’t realize it until your next credit card statement arrives. Consider re-gifting an unused item, or make something yourself. It may be too late to sign up for pottery classes now, but you can borrow books from the library on creating  easy, meaningful crafts. Or pool your resources with a sibling when buying that golf club membership your dad always wanted.

3. Make Room for Yourself

Be sure to have time and space to be on your own amidst all the activity. Soak in a tub, curl up by the fireplace with a book, relax to your favorite music. This helps you to stay grounded and gives you an opportunity to slow down as you care for yourself.

4. Stay Healthy

I’m all for indulging your taste buds during winter. Afterall, what else are sweaters for,  if not to hide the flab you’ll gain? Jokes aside, there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to good food and drinks during the holiday season. Eat and drink in moderation. Be sure you maintain a healthy diet between feasts. If you can, avoid processed foods and foods high in salt, sugar, and fat. Such foods are known to affect our energy levels and moods. Have a light lunch and snack on unsalted nuts if you know you’re going to a party this evening. And don’t wait till the new year to resolve to exercise.

5. Connect

Social isolation is one of the biggest causes of depression. Plan on attending at least a couple of social events. Don’t feel shy about asking trusted friends what their plans are for the holidays. See if you can join them as a guest to a party or an outing. You may feel anxious about being a stranger in a room full of people, so make some preparations before the event – make a mental note of how you’re going to introduce yourself and topics of interest to the people you expect to meet.

Stay in touch with people who really matter to you even if they live far away. I don’t mean Facebook updates and comments. I’m talking about phone and video calls, holiday cards, maybe even a short visit. If they are in the same city or town, arrange to meet up with them. Get together for some low-cost or free holiday activities such as visiting neighborhoods to check out Christmas lights, attending community performances, or chatting at a friend’s house over hot chocolate and homemade cookies.

Another way of connecting is by being an active member of your community. Churches and welfare organizations are usually looking for volunteers to help during the season. Your employer may be organizing a toy drive, or your kid’s school may be collecting blankets for the homeless. Look online for opportunities in your community. If you’d like to help in a food bank in Seattle, click here.

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