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3 tips on conquering depression and the holiday blues this Christmas

Family enjoying Christmas meal.  (Photo credit: Monkey Business Images /

Christmas is a joyful time of year for most, but the sad reality is that there is a large number of people that experience extreme depression and sadness during the holidays. For people who have lost a loved one over the previous year or past few years, it can be an especially difficult time. Aside from those mourning the death of a loved one, it can also be difficult for those experiencing extreme financial difficulty. The pressure to buy gifts and spend money during the holidays can be overwhelming for many.

Mental heath professional Dr. Sheila Williams says it’s important for us to be honest about how we feel during the holidays and to acknowledge it can be a difficult time for many behind closed doors.

“It’s not uncommon for people to feel the holiday ‘blues,’ even though it’s typically a time of celebration, giving thanks and reflecting upon all of life’s blessings. The reality is many may have suffered loss of loved ones (parents, significant others, even children) and the holidays bring memories of the times when loved ones were still with us. The holiday season can also be a time when many feel lonely due to not having a significant other, when perhaps the year before they were married or in a relationships,” Dr. Williams explained. “Many suffer because of financial strains and the expectations of buying and giving extravagant gifts. If someone is experiencing financial hardships, the demands of the holiday season can be very stressful.”

“Ultimately, the holiday season is about resting and rejuvenation; it’s about giving thanks and spreading love and planning for the upcoming year. If it becomes stressful, depressing or overwhelming, reevaluate your surroundings, your situation and initiate those things that will bring you happiness and peace,” she advised.

If you are struggling with this, Dr. Sheila has three tips for being proactive about warding off the holiday “blues” stress and depression:

1.Know and acknowledge what you are feeling. This means we need to be real with ourselves and our emotions. If you are completely overwhelmed and unable to function in a healthy state (i.e. go to work, take care of yourself, your children if you have suicidal thought or you simply cant get out of bed) PLEASE seek the help of a mental health professional immediately. Be honest with that person about your emotions and concerns so that you are able to get the help you need

2.Since we know exactly when the holiday season starts and ends why not “Plan Ahead?” This includes planning who you will be spending the holidays with, where you will spend the holidays and creating a realistic holiday budget. By planning ahead, you alleviate the stress of not knowing where you will be or who you will be with and how much you can afford to spend on gifts or travel. It also alleviates making last minute or hasty decisions which can all lead to stress.

3.Set boundaries and enjoy the moment! By setting boundaries we alleviate the likelihood that we will do things that we may later regret. If you plan to visit with relatives or loved ones, but know it may be stressful, set a timeframe that you will go and leave.  If you have a two hour threshold or tolerance level, plan to go and stay for two hours and then leave! (regardless of if dinner has been served or not!) By setting boundaries you minimize the likelihood of “going too far” then having regrets the day after. (this includes boundaries on food and alcohol consumption)

Although this may be a hard time for you, having a plan to enjoy the holiday season in a way that fits your needs is a great alternative. As Dr. Sheila made clear if you are having extreme depression please call a mental health professional.  Although it’s become a time of gift-buying, etc. the holidays should truly be a time to celebrate and spread love. Find a way to show yourself some love this holiday season regardless of your circumstance or situation.

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