Not everyone is beaming with holiday cheer this time of year. A lot of people find this to be the absolute worst time of year, and go through the holiday season feeling miserable. It’s not only those with clinical depression that suffer great stress and depression, either. Feeling down this time of year can be especially taxing because you feel even more out of step with the world.
When the parties, family get-together’s, shopping, the overly played music and expectations get you down, know that you are not alone: there are many others feeling the same way. It might even be the person standing next to you at your office holiday party.
But for those with depression or who have had depression in the past, they need to be especially careful when dealing with the stress of the holidays.
It will take some effort, but it is possible to reduce stress. You might even catch a bit of that holiday spirit that everyone keeps talking about. Below are 5 tips to make this season easier on you.
1. Know your triggers
Think of what kind of people or situations trigger your holiday stress and avoid them as much as possible. If staying at your family’s house is hell for you, get a hotel room and have some of your own fun. If your friends like to booze it up while on holiday break or like to drink enough on New Year’s Eve to start the first month of the new year with a hangover, and you no longer want to take part, find some other plans. If you have a certain uncle that likes to get a rise out of you by bringing up politics, religion, etc. just change the subject or walk away. You are in control of every situation. And never forget the that word NO holds great power.
2. Eat right
When you have 300 parties (damn, you’re popular!) and family gatherings to attend, it becomes increasingly hard to stick to a sensible diet. But try. Eating healthy will keep you in check not only physically but emotionally. This is the hurricane season of emotional eating. Unfortunately, emotional eating usually equals excess sugar, processed foods and general over abundance. Having a large, healthy and balanced meal before venturing out to your shindig will keep you pleasantly full long enough to escape having only had a “bit of the bad” that was offered. On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up for having too many of *those* cookies that you love so much. Tomorrow is a new day and one night of overindulging is not going to ruin your health.
3. Don’t rely on alcohol (or other substances)
Let’s be honest, the holidays are a time of heavy drinking. It’s also a time for using alcohol as a tool to deal with anxiety and stress. As much as it might sound like a brilliant plan to have a few extra glasses of wine or a little more bourbon to loosen up enough to “deal” with the anxiety at hand. It is not. Remember that alcohol itself is a depressant and will leave you feeling worse. And if you’re on antidepressant medication, it can be downright dangerous.
4. Stick to your schedule
Try your best to stick with your normal routine during the holidays. If you exercise 5 days a week, find a way to keep it up no matter where you might be spending time this season. If you like to be in bed by a certain time, don’t stay up all night wrapping gifts or making cookies. Sleep disruption can have devastating effects on your mood. While it is often impossible to stick to your exact routine, some planning and time management will help you stay on track emotionally.
5. Be good to yourself
This is the most introspective time of the year for many of us. It’s also a time of year to dwell on mistakes, imperfections and those damned “what ifs” that seem to surface at the most inopportune times. Be extra gentle with yourself. Show yourself kindness and forgiveness. Focus on the good and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Attempt to live in gratitude and realize that the holidays only come but once a year.
Be well and have a happy, healthy holiday season.
Christopher Hostetler is the founder of Do Not Die Young – Integrative Health & Nutrition Coaching. He’s a proud father, gunshot survivor, musician, writer and Muay Thai enthusiast residing in Los Angeles. He has made self evolution through nutrition, lifestyle, and mental and physical wellness his life’s work.
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