Don’t let holidays make you blue

***image8***Although the holidays are supposed to be a time full of joy, good cheer, and optimistic hopes for a new year, many people experience seasonal “blues.” The holiday blues can be caused by increased stress and fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization and the inability to be with one’s family. The increased demands on time by shopping, parties, family reunions and houseguests also contribute to these feelings of tension. Even people who do not become depressed can develop other stress reactions during the holidays, such as headaches, excessive drinking, overeating and difficulty sleeping. What’s important to know is that there are steps you can take to help beat the blues this season.

Plan ahead
Nothing creates more holiday stress than last minute shopping and preparations. Take charge of your holidays in advance by making lists of things to do and setting aside time for them. Consider setting a cut-off date; after that date, things that haven’t gotten done will be deferred until next year. Organize your time, and prioritize the most important activities. Most of all, be realistic about what you can or can’t do.

Keep it simple
A holiday feast doesn’t have to be elaborate to be wonderful. Often traditional fare is appreciated most, with guests providing some of the dishes. When shopping, take advantage of gift-wrapping services. Try shopping at home from mail order catalogs and the Internet.

Set priorities
People commonly overextend themselves during the holidays. Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable by not trying to make the holiday “the best ever.” It’s not necessary to attend every party and religious celebration that comes along. Decide what activities you and your family would most enjoy doing and focus on those. Learn to say “no” gently but firmly to social events that are over your limit.

Take care of yourself
Counter the holiday pressures by giving yourself some time for rest and renewal each day. Maintain healthy lifestyle patterns of diet and exercise. Avoid overindulgence in holiday foods, especially those high in sugar and caffeine. Eat, drink and spend in moderation.

Practice altruism
Do something for someone else. Try volunteering or extending your generosity and energy to others. There is no better antidote for the self-absorption associated with holiday blues than to get outside yourself and consider the needs of others.

Let go of the past
Don’t be disappointed if the holidays are not like they used to be. Life brings changes. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. You will set yourself up for sadness by thinking everything has to be just like the “good old days.” Try something new, and celebrate holidays in a way you have not done before. Be willing to let go of old traditions if they no longer work for your family. Look forward to the future.

For most people the symptoms of depression associated with the holiday season don’t usually last. The holiday blues should lift within a couple of weeks after the holiday season. If your depression continues or worsens, or if you have problems with sleep, energy level, or have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, seek the help of a mental-health practitioner. For assistance, call the 435th Medical Group Life Skills Support Center at 479-2390 or 06371-46-2390. (Courtesy of the 435th Medical Group.