Tips for avoiding holiday blues and depression

by Debbie Linder

It’s Christmastime again! For most of us, it’s a time of joy, tradition and celebration.

Did you know that people used to pin or melt wax onto real indoor Christmas tree branches so they could place lighted candles on them? They also kept a bucket of water and sand nearby, so they could dowse the tree when it caught fire!

That Christmas tradition was started in Germany during the 17th century and still continues today, but with much safer Christmas tree lights.

However in today’s world, traditions can remind us of the “good old days” that are long gone. For some people, this leaves them feeling alone, isolated and sad during a season that is known for joy and celebration.

Holiday blues, holiday depression, seasonal depression and wintertime sadness are real conditions. They are all similar, but each have varying degrees of severity.

If your blues extend past the holiday season, consult your doctor. The severity of depressions vary and the holiday blues have been known to trigger a deeper, more serious, long-term condition.

That said, the point is that the holidays, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, can be a source of depression or sadness for some people.

You have to admit that the holiday season can cause a lot of stress, fatigue, debt, high expectations, loneliness and a feeling of being overwhelmed.

How do you know if you are experiencing holiday depression? Some signs and symptoms are an increase in headaches, alcohol consumption, food intake and loss of sleep. However, this is not in any way a conclusive list.

We all can do things to avoid the seasonal blues. After searching the Internet, I’ve found some good suggestions from a variety of websites that will help all of us avoid the seasonal blues.

First, set realistic expectations. If you only have a $100 to spend on gifts, don’t spend $1,000, avoid debt. If you truly have time to attend only one party, don’t commit yourself to give. Your heart may be in the right place, but you can only do so much. Try to prioritize the activities you most want to attend, and let the rest go.

Second, live “in the moment.” Be happy and content where you are and what you are doing. Remember, the past is gone and the future will take care of itself. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, all we have is now.

Third, limit your alcohol and sugar intake. Both will increase your blood sugar, which will make you feel energetic and happy for awhile, but what goes up must come down. When your sugars fall so will your energy and happy feeling.

Alcohol is also a natural depressant. So, if you are already struggling with feeling low, alcohol will only make it worse.

Don’t forget to exercise. A brisk walk outside in the fresh air and sunshine will help stabilize your blood sugar and boost your level of endorphins, which are your body’s natural antidepressants.

Fourth, spend time helping others. When we are focused on others needs and problems, ours do not seem so big.

This Christmas, amid all of the traditions, parties and overall goodwill, let’s not forget those who are struggling.

Have a happy Christmas!

Debbie Linder, RN, BSN, is the school nurse at Rural Vista (Hope, White City) USD 481.