How to beat the holiday blues

It’s no secret that with the holiday season comes increased stress. There are travel, baking, holiday parties, greeting card family photos, choosing an amazing present for everyone, worrying about the 10 pounds you gain every year—the list goes on and on. It’s perfectly normal to feel some extra pressure this time of year. However, if the pressure starts to turn into the “holiday blues” or depression, it’s time to do something about it. Here are some suggestions to help bring back your holiday cheer no matter what you celebrate, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or New Year.

1. Focus on what truly matters. Why do you celebrate this holiday? Family? Faith? Tradition? Most likely you wouldn’t say to “buy presents” or to “attend as many holiday parties as you can.”

2. Forget Perfection. Remember that no one’s perfect. If your turkey is slightly overcooked or you forget to sweep the bathroom floor, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are your own worst critic, and there’s no shame in asking for help. The time you would have spent sweeping that floor is better spent with your family anyway.

3. Budget. Figure out what you can realistically spend and stick to it. You can also try to hand-make some gifts, discuss a small gift exchange with your family or plain old cut down on the spending.

4. Avoid family conflict. We’ve all been there before. There’s that one subject that always sends your aunt into a fit. There are controversial topics in any family, and the holidays just seem to make them sneak up to the surface. Life pro tip: Plan a neutral response to questions you know will come up and have an escape strategy in case of conflict.

5. Engage in mood-boosting behaviour. Exercise and sleep. Your body (and brain) will thank you. Exercise (even a 30-minute walk or yoga session) releases endorphins, which are your natural antidepressants, and helps you to get better sleep. Over the holidays, you should try to maintain your and your kids’ normal sleep patterns. Take a short nap if needed.

6. Watch what you eat and drink. Caffeine can decrease your level of serotonin, which is a chemical necessary for good moods, while too much alcohol makes sleep less fulfilling and makes you more likely to get into an argument. Instead, try some serotonin-boosting foods for extra help fighting the blues, such as those high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies), healthy fats (e.g., coconut, avocado, sunflower, olive oils), and lean proteins (e.g., turkey). Keep your blood sugar stable and decrease mood swings by eating regular meals, rather than “saving up” calories for later in the day.

7. Make time for yourself. Find a few minutes every day to focus on you. Family time is great, but you’ll enjoy it all the more if you spend some time relaxing by reading a short story, meditating or praying, listening to music, walking outside, watching a funny movie, or however else you like to take a break.

I hope these tips help you get through the holiday season with a smile on your face. Do keep in mind that depression is a very serious condition and should not be treated in the same way as the “holiday blues.” Please contact our providers at RetraceHealth if you want to discuss any medical testing, supplements, or the way you are feeling in more detail. We would be happy to help create a personal plan just for you.