The holidays are often a time when folks complain of feeling down or blue. These feelings are real, but most of the time, they are mild and temporary -- not true symptoms of clinical depression. When people are clinically depressed, on the other hand, they have many of the following symptoms which they experience for almost the entire day, every day for at least two weeks: They most definitely have a depressed mood or experience a diminished loss of interest or pleasure. They might lose or gain weight (without trying to) or notice that their appetite has drastically changed; they might have trouble sleeping and feel restless or unable to concentrate; or they might sleep too much, feel slowed down, fatigued, and lethargic. They might feel worthless or have feelings of guilt, and even experience recurrent thoughts of death. These are symptoms that likely require treatment from a mental health professional. They are not holiday blues.
But what about those mild, downhearted feelings that do occur, for some people, around the holidays? Here's some advice to help you avoid the blues:
- Maintain realistic expectations and relinquish the idea that you must partake in every holiday ritual.
- If you attend parties (and especially family get-togethers), aim to have a good time, not necessarily a great time -- otherwise, you're likely to feel disappointed. Remember, the notion that holidays ought to be the best times of the year is just media hype.
- Stick with your routines, including eating, drinking and sleeping habits. If you over do it and then skimp on your usual exercise, you'll just end up feeling heavy, bloated, and tired.
- Make a budget for spending and avoid trying to buy perfect gifts. You'll feel better knowing you didn't rack up your credit card bill.
- Try not to expect to receive perfect gifts, either. Again, you'll just end up feeling disappointed.
- Consider making a donation to your favorite charity in celebration of your family and friends instead of traditional gift-giving.
- If you feel down, call a friend who has a knack for uplifting conversations; make some plans together.
- Finally, volunteer -- help someone who is less fortunate than you. It's almost certain to help you feel good about yourself.
Follow Judith S. Beck, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drjudithbeck