The holiday season is supposed to be a restful, stress-free time with loved ones – right? With each passing year, it seems like December becomes more packed, more overscheduled, and more work! It’s not always merry and bright. Holidays can come with a set of expectations, internally and externally, which can accumulate over time, leading to depression. It may be the pressure to create the perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas for our family, or the dread that you’ll have to listen to another political rant from that uncle you only see once a year. What can we do to manage these symptoms of depression and enjoy the holidays?
Maintain your Routine/Daily Rituals
It can be easy to slip into old habits because “it’s the holidays, I deserve a break!” But this can lead to feelings of failure and self-loathing later. When you stick to your regular healthy routine, it can help you manage your holiday stressors.
Social isolation is a huge factor in holiday depression. Many of us are feeling “out of practice” when it comes to socializing and celebrating the holidays - It’s been three years since we’ve had a pandemic-free holiday season! It can be so easy to skip that company Christmas party or extended family get-together. If your reason for skipping out is simply “I don’t want to,” consider pushing through and making an appearance, even if it’s just for an hour or two.
Spend Time in Nature
Spending time outdoors instills a sense of calm and can help you stay present in the moment. After eating a big meal, try going for a 15-minute walk. Studies show it helps regulate your blood sugar, particularly important after eating the sweet treats that come with this time of year. It may be a great opportunity to get to know that extended family member of yours a little better.
What are we thankful for this holiday season? How did we grow and learn this year? This is a practice that we can do year-round.
Limit your Social Media
Another great practice to do year-round! During this time of year, there are lots of pregnancy announcements, engagement announcements, perfectly staged photos with Santa, home décor photos, and more. It can leave you feeling depressed about your “less than perfect” holiday season, which can leave you feeling isolated and detrimentally comparing yourself to others.
Practice Self-Care and Rest
What is your “one less thing”? What can you say no to in order to preserve your mental health? Choose self-care methods that are active vs passive. It can be so easy to binge-watch a tv show or scroll on your phone, but this makes many feel like they wasted precious self-care time.
Share your Struggles
If the holidays are a challenging time for you, be transparent with your friends and family. You may find that they share similar feelings, and they may have additional advice on how to help you.
Start your morning or evening with a simple meditation. Before entering a holiday gathering, try spending 10 minutes in your car before going in and listening to breathing exercises. This simple reset can help to regulate your breathing and reduce cortisol levels.
Reducing your stress is hugely important to improving your health – mind, body, and spirit. If you are interested in learning more about reducing your stress levels, schedule an appointment at Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle or Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego.