Five ways to take action against depression during the holidays

December 04, 2017
The holiday season is here. While that may have some of us donning festive attire and poring over pumpkin pie recipes, others may be suffering emotionally. Whether you or a loved one is feeling down or depressed, there are ways to cope and feel better. Child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, Sasha Waring, M.D., provides very timely and effective tips for those who may be struggling with seasonal affective disorder (winter blues) or depression.

Holiday anxiety and depression

The winter holidays can be difficult, or problematic for anyone. “Shorter days, longer nights and colder weather affect sleep patterns and limit outdoor activity,” says Dr. Waring. “This combo often exacerbates feelings of depression and anxiety. It is so important to be aware of these triggers and make an effort to stay active – both physically and socially.”

Five ways to overcome depression

“Everyone has their own set of unique feelings and needs, so no one feel-good strategy will work for everyone,” says Dr. Waring. “However, there are a few applicable strategies for taking action against feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. It largely depends on what specific strategies have worked for people in the past as well as the sort of emotional difficulties they are facing.”

1. Stick to a daily rhythm

Maintaining a daily rhythm is so important for people battling depression because it demonstrates to you and others that you are capable of recovery. Try to engage in physical, social, spiritual or other pleasurable activities at the same time every day. A balanced, daily rhythm keeps you active and gets you out of the house.

2. Maintain a regular sleep-wake and mealtime pattern   

Lack of sleep can make depression worse. When you wake up, eat and go to sleep at approximately the same time every day, you can help fight depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.  

3. Socialize

When you’re feeling down, it’s important to prioritize spending time with people who are supportive, kind and familiar. “Isolation is a classic symptom of depression. When you support people struggling with depression in an encouraging, non-critical, non-judgmental way, you can help them enjoy activities that reduce stress and increase social connection,” says Dr. Waring.

4. Minimize substance use

Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs are known triggers for anxiety and depression. Monitor and minimize substance use, particularly at social gatherings where these substances may be more plentiful. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for surviving and enjoying the holidays.

5. Stay positive   

The loss of a loved one or another negative event can make the holidays more difficult and painful. While it’s important to grieve, it is also important to embrace happy memories. Choose to think, talk or write about positive events that have happened in the past and focus on positive holiday memories-in-the-making now.

Important resources

For individuals struggling with depression, or those who know someone who is struggling, Dr. Waring recommends the following helpful resources :

The skilled behavioral health specialists at Swedish want you to have an enjoyable holiday season. Check out our tips on reducing holiday stress and fighting depression (PDF). If you or a loved one needs help overcoming or managing depression, our team of skilled psychiatrists is ready to provide compassionate, caring treatment, tailored to your specific needs.

Topics: Services, Wellness