Battling Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) means finding ways to cope with the depression and anxiety you feel during the cold winter months. When winter depression rears its ugly head, the holidays can seem anything but joyful. When the holiday season seems to be bringing you down rather than bringing you joy, these tips will help you get back on track so you can get into the holiday spirit.
Steer Clear of Activities That Bring You Down
The holiday season is yours to enjoy, so don’t feel obligated to attend events and engage in activities that tend to make you feel sad or anxious. If old family traditions lead to feelings of depression as you reminisce and miss the loved ones who are no longer here to enjoy the season with you, make new traditions of your own.
If crowded, rowdy parties lead to anxiety, skip them. If you’re comfortable doing so, explain to the host why you’re unable to attend. Most people will be supportive of your need to do things a little differently this year to better manage your mental health. Otherwise, simply decline invitations by saying that you have other commitments.
Spend Some Time Volunteering
The holidays are a wonderful time of year to give back, and helping others in need can help you put your personal circumstances in perspective. If your budget allows, purchase some gifts for Toys for Tots or sign up to provide Christmas gifts for struggling families through your local Child Protection Services agency.
If your budget doesn’t allow for extra gift-giving, your time is equally valuable during the holidays. Visit a nearby children’s hospital dressed as an elf (or even Santa himself) to bring some holiday cheer to sick children who will be spending the holidays in the hospital. Spend some time preparing meals for families in need through a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. There’s never a shortage of volunteer needs during the holidays, and dedicating your time and energy to a worthy cause can make you feel good about yourself.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season makes it easy to forget to take care of your own needs, but it’s crucial to prioritize self-care, particularly during the busiest season of the year. When you don’t take care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy exercise routine, you’ll feel more tired and mentally fatigued, and you’ll be even less likely to want to participate in the joyful activities of the season.
If you’re attending holiday gatherings, alcohol will likely be a part of many celebrations. While it may seem like a good idea to drown your sorrows in a bottle of champagne, alcohol can actually exacerbate the symptoms of depression. If you have a substance abuse disorder, resist the urge to feel like you’re participating fully by having a glass of wine or a beer or two.
Does it seem strange to focus so much on yourself during the holidays? By prioritizing your personal health and well-being and doing the things that bring you the most joy (while avoiding those that tend to make you anxious or sad), you can be fully present in the happenings of the season and combat the holiday blues that plague many people with SAD. And when you spend some time over the holidays doing something to lift the spirits of families in need, you’ll find the balance that many people so desperately seek during this time of year.
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