Depression and the Holiday Blues
Many people experience depression, especially over the holidays. Symptoms can include: overwhelming sadness, numbness, unexplained anger, feeling more tired than usual, feeling separated or isolated from others, and feeling like there is no way to feel happy.
There are some things we can do help lower the effects of depression.
• Know it’s okay to feel sad and depressed sometimes. The holidays can bring high expectations and hopes of joy and happiness. It’s natural to feel all emotions at all times. They key is to allow ourselves to feel the emotions, even the so-called negative ones. The emotion will not continue forever, as we fear. There are many books, websites, and professionals that can help you deal with emotions.
• Practice daily breathing exercises. The breath calms the body and mind, especially during intense emotions. One technique is called the Box Breath. To complete this technique, breathe in slowly to the count of 6, hold the breath to the count of 6, exhale slowly to the count of 6, and hold the breath out to the count of 6. Practice this technique at least 5 minutes every day. Set a timer. Practicing when we feel good will make it easier and more automatic to use when we are stressed or sad.
• Talk to someone. Isolation can lead to sadness and depression. When we’re sad or depressed, it helps to talk and connect to another person. Talk to a friend, family member, coworker, or counselor. Say hello or say something kind to a stranger. Join a support group, book club, or hiking group. Volunteer to help others. We all need connection to feel healthy and happy and sometimes we have to actively look for ways to connect.
• Take some time to move. You don’t need to break a heavy sweat or go to the gym to feel the positive effects of exercise. Try to get 30 minutes of movement in per day. Movement includes taking a walk outside in the sunshine, taking the stairs, stretching before getting out of bed, marching in place in front of the TV, doing pushups during commercial breaks, dancing to your favorite song, anything that gets your body to move.
• Sleep more than 7 hours a night. There’s a reason why all the experts recommend healthy amounts of sleep. We all know how hard it is to get through the day without enough sleep. It can be even tougher during times with high levels of emotion and stress. Even if you cannot get 7 hours of sleep at night, make sure you give yourself time to rest and relax during the day.
• Eat healthy foods and limit alcohol. The body needs vitamins and nutrients to function well. Try to add in more fruit and vegetables during the day and eat less sugar. The food we eat can influence how we think and feel. Also, limit alcohol. Alcohol is a natural depressant. Sometimes the effect of alcohol can last for days as the body readjusts. Be aware of the effect alcohol has on your mood and drink less if you notice that sadness or depression sticks around.
• Talk to your doctor. When depression feels too overwhelming or lasts for too long, it can help to speak to your doctor. Your doctor can help you figure out the cause of depression and make recommendations that work specifically for you. If you are feeling suicidal, call 911 or check yourself into the hospital. There is nothing wrong with using emergency services, and sometimes we need extra help in the moment.
Remember, sadness is a normal emotion to feel, especially over the holidays. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself over the busy holidays. When we take time to care for the body and mind, we have an easier time coping with uncomfortable emotions and stress. If you feel like you need extra help, always remember to contact your doctor or counselor. They want to help you be as happy and healthy as possible.
Partida Corona Medical Center offers counseling by appointment only. Most insurance plans are accepted as well as cash pay pricing.
Have a wonderful holiday season and happy new year!