7 Ways to Avoid the Holiday Blues

When holiday stressors threaten to taint your white Christmas with shades of blue, take control.

Breanna Olaveson Nov 1, 2016

Everyone who has listened to Christmas music knows that the holidays are supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.” But if family gatherings, shopping trips and Christmas carols don’t exactly leave you feeling merry and bright, you’re not alone. Following are a few tips from Jeremy Cottle, Ph.D, licensed clinical social worker and CEO of Provo Canyon Behavioral Hospital in Utah, for avoiding all-too-common holiday depression.

1. Plan and Budget Early

If the financial aspect of Christmas is a source of concern for you, try combating it early with planning and budgeting. Decide well in advance what you’re going to buy and stick to a budget. “Buying gifts early and on sale can help you stay in your budget and prevents the last-minute hustle and bustle that can often be stressful,” Cottle says.

2. Learn to Grieve

If the main source of your holiday blues is the recent death of a family member, learning how to grieve can lessen the sting. “Holidays in particular remind us of family and friends,” Cottle says. “Many communities have support groups or therapists that can help if you are experiencing significant grief.”

3. Do Not Overschedule

The busy nature of the holiday season may be part of its charm, but it can also be one of the most stressful parts of December. “Do what is best for you and your family,” Cottle says. “Understand that you cannot please everyone, and don’t try to do so at your own expense. Learn to say ‘no’ and keep up with your routines to ensure you are getting enough sleep.”

4. Take Time for Yourself

The holidays are a time for family, but there can be too much of a good thing. “Continue your regular routines of exercise, reading, sleeping and other hobbies that help you re-energize and relax,” Cottle says.

5. Simplify and Manage Expectations

When it comes to decorating the house, wrapping gifts, shopping and hosting parties, don’t risk your mental health by expecting perfection. “Perfectionism is overwhelming and seldom achieved,” Cottle says. “Don’t overdo it. Some things are outside of your control, so be flexible and try breathing exercises. These can go a long way in maintaining a happier outlook.”

6. Put Aside Family Differences

If you live near family, get-togethers are probably part of your holiday celebrations. If conflict is likely, prepare to put aside differences. “Keep the conversation neutral,” Cottle says. “Use neutral statements like, ‘I understand how you might feel that way,’ or ‘I am sorry you are feeling that way.’”

7. Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder

In some cases, the holiday blues can be attributed to something more than just stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a type of depression related to changes in seasons. Symptoms usually arrive in the fall and continue into the winter months — including the holiday season. “Consider your light exposure,” Cottle says. “A lack of sun can affect your mood. You can talk to your doctor about supplements or a sun lamp.”

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