As the weather changes and the days shorten, it’s all too common for us to experience what we call the “holiday blues.”

But what are the holiday blues?

To put it simply, they’re a series of factors caused by the change in season that bring down our mood. Thanks to the worsening  weather and reduced sunlight of the shorter days, we start to get trapped indoors. Away from the sun, and bundled up from the colder weather, our body tends to naturally  activate what we call our inactivity mode.

When this happens, our mind has difficulty adjusting. Unlike our body, our mind stays active as ever, creating conflict within ourselves. In an attempt to win out over our body’s tendency toward seasonal inactivity, we try to carry on as always, forcing ourselves into cold weather, unpleasant crowds, poor road conditions + traffic jams, unending lines to purchase our holiday gifts. We go eleventh hour shopping, or indulge too much in season food and drink.

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Without realizing it, we violate the natural rhythms of our bodies, leading us into a season of stress and depression that we have to deal with every year.

It’s also a time of year that highlights family and togetherness–which, if you’re going through a difficult time, can make you feel alienated or guilty, worsening the seasonal funk you’re stuck in. Dealing with a divorce, a sudden death, financial issues, employment changes, any sort of change in your family dynamics or personal life can add an even bigger strain on your ability to keep up your mental and physical health during the holidays.

For women it can be even worse. On top of all the that, they’re often the ones running things at home and taking care of the holiday planning. The holiday season becomes a huge, draining task that we push off until the last minute, because we dread the stress that goes along with it.

It may seem daunting, but you CAN survive the holidays without feeling out of control. There are ways to help you deal with the stress and anxiety, and help to prevent them from getting the better of you.

Here are five ways you can beat the holiday blues:

1. Spend Time With Your Family And Friends

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It may be tempting to bundle up and spend the season alone in the warm indoors, but staying isolated will only make things worse! Why not get friends or family together when you can? Invite someone over for a dinner party, a small simple gathering so you can kick the holiday blues together. The more time you spend with loved ones, the more cheerful you will be!

2. Reduce intake of alcohol and drugs

If you know alcohol will be readily available at a party you've been invited for, refrain yourself from taking more than you can handle - one or two drinks should be just fine. Taking on more can quickly shift your mood, exacerbating the negative feelings of the season. Instead of stocking up on alcohol or recreational drugs during the holiday, limit the amount you bring into your home. Then you won’t be tempted to over indulge.

3. Eat Healthy

This one can be tough–the holidays are known for bringing out everyone’s sweet tooth. With an abundance of cookies and candies, home cooked comfort foods from family and friends, it can be easy to fill ourselves without thinking of health.

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This season, try to take in more foods that help with anxiety reduction and boosting your mood. Limit things like simple carbohydrates, which amplify feelings of depression. Keeping your diet balanced with nutrients like vitamin D instead is the key!

4. Accept New Traditions

We all have our own ideas of what the holidays should be. Lingering traditions from childhood, annual ways you celebrate with friends and loved ones can be hard to let go of! It’s hard to relinquish control of how we want our holidays to unfold, but the fact is they don’t always follow the perfect plan.

Instead of getting hung up on the ways things aren’t fitting into your plan, embrace new traditions! You’ll be amazed at how much your holiday stress will go down if you learn to accept things as they come.

5. Don’t Overcommit Yourself

Forcing yourself to check off a never ending list of commitments is the perfect way to sink further into your holiday depression. It’s hard to say no when it’s the season of togetherness, but no one can do everything! Learn to turn down an invitation that just doesn’t fit in your schedule. Overcommitting, going to too many late night parties and leaving no time for yourself to recharge will only amplify your stress. Not to mention it’ll be that much harder to keep yourself healthy if the only thing you’re exposed to the entire holiday season is party food + drinks.

Leave time to yourself to take care of your own body + mind. Make sure you’re recharged enough to enjoy your favorite traditions with friends and family–that’s the reason for the season after all!

And finally, don’t be afraid to take some time to reevaluate seasonal plans and  traditions. If they’re causing you more anxiety or stress than you need, give yourself permission to opt out. This will allow you to save time and energy for the celebrations you truly enjoy.

For more information or to schedule an appointment online, visit our Depression and Anxiety Counseling page or call 919-647-4600.

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