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Although the holidays can serve as fun times to catch up with family and friends, many people experience increased depression during the fall and winter months. In fact, we see additional people during these months each year at MedStar Health who feel down or sad because:
- They feel as though everything has to be perfect
- They feel pressure to purchase gifts
- They have to celebrate the holidays after the loss of a loved one
- The days are shorter and nights are longer
- The lack of sun
Making an effort to speak about your feelings to friends and family can alleviate some people’s symptoms, but others require additional help. Read on for tips to help conquer seasonal depression this holiday season.
How to alleviate depression during the holidays
Running or brisk walking can help reduce some symptoms of clinical depression because exercising:
- Increases blood flow to the brain
- Releases endorphins, or your body’s own natural antidepressant
- Increases self-confidence
- Occupies your mind elsewhere
A good goal is to exercise 30 minutes a day, four days a week.
2. Get enough sleep
Insomnia is very common among depressed patients— in fact, evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a tenfold risk of developing depression compared to those who report they regularly get a good night’s sleep. I always suggest that people get at least eight hours of sleep per night.
3. Get some sun
A lack of sunlight seems to affect people’s brain chemicals, according to researchers. In fact, people with seasonal affective disorder feel better after exposure to bright light, especially in the mornings. Taking a walk, when the sun is out, before or after work is a great way to soak in some sunshine.
4. Spend time with others
Loneliness and depression often go hand-in-hand. Planning game nights or dinners with friends and family is one of the easiest and most effective ways to confront loneliness. Volunteering with a local organization is another great way you can get out and enjoy yourself. An added bonus? Studies show that individuals who give show reduced stress and increased feelings of reward in their brain imaging.
5. Focus on happy moments
We see many people who are experiencing the holidays, often for the first time in many years, without a loved one. We suggest taking time to remind yourself of all the good times you had with your loved one during the holidays, rather than mourning the loss. The more you reverse the sad thoughts to positive ones, the easier it will become.
6. Take time to appreciate what you have
It can be easy to get wrapped up in figuring out the perfect holiday plans and picking out the perfect gifts. However, it’s important to take a step back to remember to be thankful for what you do have, whether it’s extra time to spend with your loved ones or enjoy some of your favorite activities. Setting your expectations abnormally high can take the joy away from things that normally would make you happy.
The holidays come and go each year, and it’s important that we remember key ways to maintain our happiness, especially if we find ourselves more prone to depression during these times. These tips aren’t a replacement for medical care, so be sure to seek medical attention if you’re struggling to alleviate your sadness.