Have you ever been one of the people who get the holiday blues toward the end of the year? If so, you’re not alone. Whether you are battling a mental health issue or not, it is easy to succumb to the holiday blues. (Did you know that 64% of people who do have mental health issues report feeling depressed at the holidays?) Although the suicide rates do not spike at the holidays, the holiday blues are very real. It’s been clearly documented that people do feel more stress, anxiety, and especially depression at this time of year. Of course, the majority of people report feeling happy, loving, and generally have high spirits, but at the same time they are also overly tired, still feeling higher levels of stress, irritability, and they report feeling bloated and sad. Some of the reasons for increased stress are time, money, all the commercialism that surrounds the holiday season, feeling pressured to give gifts, and being at family gatherings. Ironically, more people report feeling the added stress at work rather than at home. Please remember that holiday blues end at the close of the holiday season, so if you’re still feeling any of these negative symptoms, it is probably time to look at your diet, and hook up with a professional to help you readjust. The holidays may just be exacerbating a situation that is already there and that needs attention.

So, what can you do to steer clear of the holiday blues?

You can make sure you are not suffering from the blues from not having as much exposure to the sun (and Vitamin D can help with that). This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder. There are various treatments available – in fact, there are specially designed light lamps which are not too expensive to help, among other things. A little counseling wouldn’t hurt anything either!

You can watch your diet and keep your levels of sugar and refined products – especially wheat and other starches – to a minimum. If you happen to be very susceptible to these products, it is likely best to avoid them. Most lower carbohydrate eating plans will be helpful and will  have wonderful suggestions for delicious foods and baked goods that do not contain these two mood-destroying food groups!

Watch how much alcohol you are consuming. Keep that to a minimum or avoid it if you are susceptible. Similar drinks can be prepared just without the alcohol or drinking carbonated spring water with a touch of lemon, lime, or berries is frankly refreshing and delicious.

If you have had some serious losses in your lifetime (and most of us have), sometimes the holidays can trigger sad, bittersweet memories. If you find yourself susceptible, make sure your diet is healthy, see a counselor, or talk with a close personal friend. Be careful not to let this sadness develop into a disordered condition, like a serious depression. In other words, be proactive so it doesn’t happen. But if it does, spring into action to conquer so you will be able to also feel happy. (Many of us – in fact, most of us – experience some twinges of sadness, which is normal. But then we are able to continue to feel happy as well.)

If you have a tendency to isolate, please check yourself so that you do not find yourself alone too often. Some people who do not have close family and friendship ties can find themselves feeling lost at the holidays. There are ways to ensure that your mood and your holiday season remain happy experiences. Consider inviting someone into your home to help celebrate.

Don’t forget the value of a little exercise to deal with stress and anxiety and depression! Research has shown consistently that even very moderate exercise can help lift you out of the holiday blues (or any other blues at any time of the year). Moving your body physically actually can help your mental health symptoms ease up. Although the mechanism isn’t completely understood as to how exercise helps with depression and anxiety especially, we know that it does. When you move your body, you release endorphins, which tend to enhance your sense of well-being. Plus, exercising helps you take your mind off your problems! You don’t have to go to a gym to get this benefit – even housework, gardening, dancing, and walking the dog can do the trick. Pick something that is more enjoyable to you – don’t punish yourself by doing things you really don’t like and that you’re unlikely to keep doing.

Do you have trouble with time management? Be sure to get a lead on how your holiday season will go, schedule yourself up on your calendar for all your holiday related activities, and make some wise decisions about what is feasible and what is not, so you don’t end up feeling overly stressed out.

Do you have trouble with a holiday budget? Many people do not even have them and end up feeling stressed out due to feeling like there isn’t enough money to fulfill expectations. Again, be sure to plan ahead, and be realistic about what you can accomplish financially. Homemade gifts are also often popular, and remind yourself, your family, and your friends that holidays are intended to be about love and family time, not about expensive gifts.

We at Health and Wellness Online would like to wish all of you a happy, holistically healthy holiday season!

And, as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
Dr. P