For many the kickoff of the holiday season usually begins with Thanksgiving and carries right through to New Year’s Day. Some of us cannot wait to cue the holiday music and look forward to all the festivities that this season offers. However, many will experience what is sometimes referred to as the “holiday blues.” Women in particular are susceptible to these feelings as often times, the stress of the holidays is greater for them. Depression and anxiety during what many consider to be the happiest time of the year makes it doubly difficult. Many feel guilty about not getting into the spirit of the season.
Several factors can conspire to contribute to feeling less than jolly, including stress, unrealistic expectations, loneliness, and disruption of our normal routine. Sufferers can feel both emotional as well as physical symptoms, including head and stomach aches as well as insomnia. Trying to isolate the causes of your seasonal depression can go a long way in trying to avoid possible triggers.
Many women feel they need to accomplish every task on their never-ending to-do lists, especially during the busy holiday season. Family commitments, social engagements, and end-of-year work obligations can be overwhelming, and the associated stress can make you feel anxious or depressed. Setting realistic goals and cutting yourself a break can help lessen your anxiety. Financial stress can be a real burden for many at this time of year. Setting a budget and sticking to it can help alleviate a great deal of stress and subsequent depression when those bills roll around in January.
We all know that the holidays are the perfect time to over-indulge. Parties abound, whether with family, friends, or co-workers. Excess alcohol consumption as well as all those high calorie foods can leave us feeling hung-over and sluggish. Try to plan ahead during the holidays to include some healthy options on your menu. Be the one who shows up with the healthy hummus and veggies. Certainly it’s okay to have a few treats during those office parties or special family gatherings, but be sure to eat healthy foods as well. You’ll feel better physically and emotionally by eating more healthfully.
Often times, schedules during the holiday season can become overwhelming. Be sure to carve out some time to exercise and relax. Exercise can help to give you stamina when you need extra energy. A gym membership is not necessary. A brisk walk around the neighborhood to see the holiday decorations is a perfect way to increase your energy level. Relaxation can let your body rest to recharge. Enjoy a favorite holiday movie with family and friends. Proper sleep is always a healthful thing for your body and is no less important during the holidays. Many travel during the holidays, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule can help to reduce stress and depression. Visiting with family, some of whom we don’t see often, can be stressful. Planning ahead to avoid stressful conversations or limiting time spent together can go a long way to reducing stress.
For others, it’s the lack of seeing family and/or missing deceased family members that can bring on anxiety or depression. Memories of previous happier times can trigger sadness when it seems that everyone else is with loved ones during the holidays. Acknowledging that the holidays may be a difficult time is validating that it is okay to feel sad. Many find that reaching out to others can help to alleviate feelings of loneliness. Activities like volunteering or hosting an event or treating yourself to a trip or even a special outing can help you feel less isolated. Avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol—which is a depressant—can be helpful. Consulting with a therapist or healthcare provider is wise if you feel that your loneliness or depression is overwhelming.
Stress is a normal part of life, and with some thoughtful planning, we can try to recognize how our bodies react to stress. Setting realistic expectations about the busy holiday season can help to guide our reaction to that stress. Remember you don’t have to say yes to every party invitation and buy everyone the perfect gift. A healthy you will be the most appropriate gift you can give your loved ones.
Dr. Hardy practices obstetrics and gynecology at Atlantic Ob/Gyn located in Va. Beach and Chesapeake. Please visit www.atlanticobgyn.com.