How to Beat the Blues This Holiday Season

November 21st 2016

The holidays usually represent the most wonderful time of year, but sometimes the jolly season can actually be associated with feelings of sadness, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The holidays promote giving back to others, indulgence in good food, and connecting with loved ones - so why does it bring us down?

For starters, the pressure of organizing and preparing for the holidays can weigh on people. The Mayo Clinic states on its site: "The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few."

Psychiatrist Mark Sichel told The Huffington Post in 2014 that some people might get depressed because their holiday experiences don't match up to pop culture depictions:

“People have this anticipation or fantasy of the holiday that you would see on TV. Actually, it’s never exactly as people anticipate, and it’s often disappointing. There’s often strife within families that comes out at holiday times.”

The way we eat and drink also has an impact on how we feel about the holidays.

The holiday season encourages an increase in alcohol consumption and eating, which may result in weight gain and a negative body image, according to the University of California-Davis Health System website.  

"Even people who do not become depressed can develop other stress reactions during the holidays such as headaches, excessive drinking, overeating, and difficulty sleeping," according to The Indiana University of Pennsylvania on the stress management portion of its website

Making the right choices to stay mentally healthy this holiday season.

Sichel told The Huffington Post that the hectic holiday season can also cause people to put exercise on the back burner. Because exercise has been shown to improve mental health, maintaining any pre-existing exercise routine is important.

“Take care of yourself — don’t overeat and over-drink,” Sichel advised. “Do your regular routines of exercise and whatever keeps you together during the year.”

Sarah Eckfeldt, a psychotherapist in New York, told CNN in December 2014 that it's important not to bail on exercise during the holidays, and that reaching out to other people can reduce feelings of loneliness: "Hibernation and isolation can feed a depressed mood. Surround yourself with friends, even if you don't feel like it. Not only are you distracting yourself from your possibly blue thoughts, but being out with others provides you with opportunities for pleasure and joy."

So eat, drink (in moderation), be merry and unwind this holiday season! 

If you or someone you know is experiencing depression during the holidays, feel free to contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-6264.

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