Mental Wellness: Beating the Holiday Blues

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As Andy Williams sang in his 1963 hit, December can be “the most wonderful time of the year!” But for some, it feels like anything but wonderful. This phenomenon, called the “holiday blues,” is more common than many of us realize.

Here are some interesting facts and tips that may help you and your family and friends during this celebratory yet sometimes emotionally challenging season.

Why do people feel blue during the holidays?

Here are a few of the reasons why people get the holiday blues, according to Mental Health America (MHA). Check out the MHA website for more information.

  • Increased stress and anxiety
  • Increased financial pressures
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Inability to be with family during the holiday season

How can I recognize the holiday blues and how should I cope with these feelings?

Symptoms of the holiday blues can range from sadness to agitation to decreased interest in activities that are usually enjoyable. Squidoo’s Healthy Living blog identified a plethora of symptoms and offered suggestions to help cope with these symptoms. Here are a few key coping tools – I encourage you to check out the full list on their blog:

  • Take things one day at a time, and if need be, one hour at a time.
  • Try and maintain a normal routine. Keep doing your normal daily activities.
  • Get enough sleep or at least enough rest.
  • Regular exercise helps relieve stress and tension and can help improve mood.
  • Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Limit high-calorie foods and junk food.

How can I help a person who is depressed?

Take note of the symptoms identified above. If you know someone who is depressed, the most important thing you can do is to support them. The National Institute of Mental Health lists several helpful ways for you to be there for friends and relatives dealing with these symptoms.

Above all, the most important things to remember are:

  • Holiday blues are a normal response to a stress-filled time of the year and you don’t have to suffer unnecessarily and alone.
  • Stay engaged in purposeful, productive activities that give you meaning.
  • Stay involved with your social network.
  • Apply the basic ways listed above to help you cope with the holidays.
  • Find someone to talk with who can help you through this difficult time – family members, friends, members at your place of worship, or a physician, professional counselor or therapist.

Best wishes for the holiday season from me and my colleagues at the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

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