I t is the end of the year and everybody is tired. Some are able to go on holiday and others stay at home and celebrate with family and friends. So why are so many people stressed and depressed at Christmastime?

And what can we do to help loved ones cope with stress and depression this time of year?

The Festive Season can be Stressful, Lonely and Sad

Unfortunately, although the festive season is usually associated with joy, it can also be a stressful, lonely or sad time for many people. For those who have depression, Christmas can actually be the worst time of the year.

We can ask why?  Well, there is so much emphasis placed on perfection and happiness at this time of year that it can make people feel terrible if they aren’t living up to those ideals. Also this is a time of year we most miss loved ones who have died.

The holidays somehow always present a string of demands — parties, attending many social gatherings, shopping, baking, cleaning, staying away from home and/or entertaining family and friends. One study found that suicide rates increased on the days following holidays; another reported a 40% increase in suicides in the days following Christmas.

Depression – whether it is clinical or brought on by a death of a loved one, divorce or work – is often at its worst for some people during the holiday season.

A Few Practical Tips to Combat Stress and Depression

With a few practical tips, you can minimize the stress and depression that often accompany the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays.

Eat Healthy Food

The festive season is a period of over indulgence and the combination of too much food and generally poor nutrition can have a negative impact on a person’s mood.

Don’t Drink too much Alcohol

Drinking too much is common during the festive season, and while alcohol temporarily produces positive feelings and relaxation, when it’s intoxicating effects wear off it can contribute to stress and depression.

Don’t Waste Money and Cause yourself Financial Stress

This time of the year we are bombarded with advertising and special offers all meant to get the money out of our pockets. For most people it is a time of considerable expense, and the financial strain associated with buying gifts and food and travelling to visit loved ones, can contribute to stress, anxiety and depression.

For Christians it would be good to remember what this holiday is all about. And for others, celebrate this as a time for giving and sharing, not for spending large amounts of money.

Families can be Difficult.

This is a time of the year for family gatherings, which are supposed to be a time for sharing love and joy. In reality they often mean extra work and can be a time of conflict.

More Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress and Depression

  • Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief.
  • Reach out to others. If you feel lonely or isolated, find some people to be with – there are always religious or other social events. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  • Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Forget about all the family in-fighting during the year or how badly your uncle behaved last Christmas. Be there for each other.
  • Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness!
  • Plan ahead. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. Also plan your activities. But don’t be so rigid and get stressed when things don’t go according to these plans.
  • Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and stressed. Friends, family and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity; if you can’t party every night and if you cannot be involved in every community event.

Important to Stay Physically Healthy

Don’t give up your healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Remember that a healthy body is the foundation of a healthy mind, and eating well (healthy food) and getting plenty of physical activity can have a positive impact on your festive season mood.

It is important that you take note to seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores.

If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

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