Usually the holidays conjure visions of happiness and joy with family, friends. However, the holiday seasons are not always that way for many people. Some are without friends or family nearby, some have suffered a loss, others are going through a financial or health dilemmas, or having marital or other family problems. For many reasons such as these it can be a time of overwhelming sadness, loneliness and stress – triggering depression. More than 35 million Americans are affected by depression in their lifetime, and it becomes even more prevalent during the holidays.

To keep yourself ‘mentally healthy’ during holiday seasons, keep in mind these…

Maintain a fairly normal schedule

Undue stress is experienced with the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping. Wherever possible, use pre-emptive planning and follow-through to reduce last minute pressures.

Surround yourself with supportive people

Spend quality time with those who you view as your support system.

Eat healthy, minimize alcohol intake, get adequate sleep, and maintain your exercise program

Sleeping less; eating more; and too much sugar, caffeine or alcohol can contribute to emotional stress and make depressive symptoms worse.

Create your own traditions and minimize holiday expectations of others

Expectations of how holiday celebrations ‘should be’ can add stress and bring up feelings of loneliness, frustration and disappointment. Creating your own traditions means making new happy memories with special people that are meaningful to you.

Relax and take the holidays one day at a time

Keep in mind the holidays only last for a short time; your mental health lasts a lifetime.

If the holidays are becoming too stressful and you are experiencing two or more of the symptoms (listed below) for two weeks or more, it could be a sign of a physical health problem that needs the attention of a healthcare provider or a sign of a deeper depression whereby you may need counseling by a qualified psychotherapist.

• Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying
• Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
• Significant changes in appetite or sleep patterns
• Exhaustion, persistent tiredness
• Irritability, anger, worry, anxiety
• Pessimism, indifference
• Impaired concentration or indecisiveness
• Restlessness or agitation
• Inability to take pleasure from former interests
• Unexplained aches and pains

Enjoy your holidays by savoring every moment and not worrying about the past or future.

“When you accept Gods will in every aspect of your life you will find God providing you with strength, and courage, and a dignity that resounds to the heavens.” Mother Angelica

Jeff Bates