Holidays are supposed to evoke sentiments of peace, comfort, and joy – but for many, this time of year can bring about feelings of guilt, stress, and anxiety. As it turns out, the most wonderful time of the year is not always so wonderful for mental health.

For those who struggle with mental illness, the holidays can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression. But even people without a history of mental illness can suffer during the holidays. For many, it is a time when sadness and stress cause “Holiday Blues” and even lead to long-term bouts of clinical depression. That’s why it’s so important to develop healthy coping mechanisms during the holidays, and if necessary, to seek professional help.

Why do people get the “Holiday Blues?”

If you’re not feeling the holiday spirit this December, you’re not alone – and there are many valid reasons why you might be feeling depressed:

  • There’s too much to do

With so many demands on your time and energy, it can be easy to get overwhelmed during the holidays. Shopping lists, holiday parties, and houseguests can create tension and leave you without a spare second to relax.

  • Expectations are way too high

There’s a lot of pressure to make things merry during the holidays, but if you’re already feeling tapped out from your to-do list, you might have difficulty mustering the energy to be cheery – and that can feel like a failure in itself.

  • Dealing with family can be stressful

Whether you’re frustrated by dysfunctional family members, or saddened by the absence of family members who are far away, the holidays can intensify any issues you may have with your loved ones. Loneliness, anger, and sorrow stemming from family trouble can add to the emotional burden of the holidays.

  • Holiday spending strains finances

Many people blow through their budgets around this time of year, spending more than they can reasonably afford on presents, travel expenses, and social gatherings. Feeling stretched to your financial limit can trigger feelings of anxiety and depression – and may even increase once that first post-holiday credit card bill arrives in the mail.

How to cope with holiday depression

With a few lifestyle changes and shifts in mindset, you can minimize the impact of holiday stress on your mental health. The following tips can help you cope in healthy, productive ways:

  • Keep a gratitude journal

By focusing on what’s going well in your life, you take your mind off your troubles and create a release from toxic emotions that bring you down.

  • Meditate

Research has shown time and again that establishing a meditation practice can help reduce stress and improve the symptoms of certain mental health conditions.

  • Eat healthy

A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Avoid foods that are high in sugar and fat, eat plenty of whole grains and green vegetables, and ensure you’re drinking lots of water.

  • Avoid alcohol

Eggnog and mulled wine are mainstays at many holiday celebrations, but even though a drink or two can help you feel better, the effect is only temporary. Alcohol is a depressant, and in the long run, it can make symptoms of mental illness much worse.

  • Get enough sleep

While you may be tempted to stay up all night wrapping presents, it’s crucial to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. Exhaustion takes a toll on your mental health, and studies show sleep deprivation is linked to clinical depression.

  • Seek professional help

If you feel as though you’re experiencing something more intense than temporary “Holiday Blues,” contact a mental health professional to get help. The sooner you seek treatment for anxiety or depression, the more likely you are to experience a full and long-lasting recovery.

Alvarado Parkway Institute treats depression all year long

Whether you’re suffering from seasonal depression or long-term mental illness, Alvarado Parkway Institute offers top-quality mental health care in a safe and supportive environment. We empower our patients to take an active role in their treatment, supporting their quest to live independent lives free from the debilitating symptoms of mental illness.

Don’t wait until the New Year to get help for your depression. Call us today at (619) 667-6125.