What are some natural ways to deal with holiday depression?
Pay it forward. There are many wonderful ways to help decrease holiday depression naturally. One of the best is to pay it forward, or as we say around this time of year, partake in the spirit of giving. Doing good for others does two major things. First, it strengthens our sense of connectedness. And when we feel socially connected, our physical, mental and spiritual health remains sound and balanced. Second, it validates our sense of personal worth. When we experience gratitude from others, we feel recognized, loved and even cared for.
Don’t overschedule yourself. Most of our lives are already overscheduled, even before adding in holiday visits, religious events, and travel. Make plans carefully in advance and don’t be afraid to say no if you feel burdened.
Don’t confuse “stuff” with “love”. Make a budget and stick to it. Most of all, remember to give the gift of time to others. Long after the $100 video games are forgotten, kids will remember sledding down hills with you.
Plan your time well. Don’t put off shopping for food and presents. Feelings of helpless, guilt and sadness can give way when things are left to the last minute.
Sleep. Make sure you give your body the necessary shut down time during the holidays. After prolonged periods of stress, the body needs to slow the production of cortisol and adrenaline. Schedule a pajama evening. Consider unplugging from technology. Catnap. Give yourself some time to refuel.
Move. Moving your body at least 20 minutes a day will help rid excess adrenaline and cortisol that keep you from relaxing and/or sleeping soundly. Walk. Play with the dog. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Just move your body.
Look forward. Keep your eyes on the next prize. The next birthday, an upcoming concert, a sporting event, etc. This keeps you forward-looking into the year rather than concentrating on the holiday season.
Is it ever OK to stay in bed and wallow in our depression–even for a few days?
It’s okay to give yourself a few days to cocoon yourself if you need it. In fact, I just held a two day pajama sleep-in after a difficult set of circumstances touched my life. I needed the time to let my body work through the numbness of the sadness, for my mind to process what happened, and then a day to use forward thinking skills to problem solve. The important thing is not to allow too much time to pass with such a respite. You have to get moving again or the inertia of depression can take over.
Any other tips or advice about holiday depression?
I think it’s really important to be realistic during the holiday season. Unrealistic expectations are the single biggest cause of holiday depression.
Dr. Deborah Serani is a go-to expert on the subject of Depression. Her interviews can be found in ABC News, Newsday, Psychology Today, The Chicago Sun Times, Glamour Magazine, The Associated Press, and affiliate radio station programs at CBS and NPR, just to name a few. She is the author of Living with Depression by the Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group.