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High career expectations from family members, lack of funds, and other holiday problems can make anyone uncomfortable, and especially those with or prone to depression. Not to mention, the social pressure to be cheerful can be exhausting when you don’t feel that way. But with a smart strategy, the holiday season can leave you feeling up, not down.
Avoid Family Conflict No Matter What
There are a few ways to protect your sanity at family reunions, said Dr. Jeffrey Greeson, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, N.C.
If there is a high possibility of family conflict happening, prepare a neutral and non-triggering response. For example, say “We can talk about that later. Let’s enjoy the party right now,” or “I can see why you would feel that way.” Then, excuse yourself to the restroom or say you need to help in the kitchen. Also, it may help to call a good friend with a sympathetic ear.
Focus on the Good, Never the Bad
Specifically, focus on the positive people in your life who lift you up. The holiday season can be extremely stressful if you don’t get along with your family, and yet end up spending an excessive amount of time with them. If you will be under the same roof as them during the holidays, think about the people — or things — that don’t stress you out during this time.
Always Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Holiday activities can interfere with your sleep schedule. Unfortunately, studies have shown a link between depression and sleep deprivation, To avoid skimping on sleep, make your bedroom a sanctuary free from TV and other distractions. It may also help to drink milk before bedtime.
Limit Your Media Consumption
The holidays can make you feel more alone than ever. Advertisements about happy couples and families may affect you if you’re depressed.
Social media (as well as other types of media) often emphasize feelings of “nobody likes me,” which is why you should be mindful of how much of said media you are consuming. If you feel sad or anxious when using Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, pay attention to those feelings, and then consider changing or limiting your media consumption habits.
Prioritize Your Fitness by Exercising
Exercise should top your to-do list. “The more stress we are under, the less time we feel like we have, and the more irritated our mood, the more we need to continue exercising,” explained Dr. Greeson. He adds that you should “get out and do something; it helps use those calories from rich, fatty, sugary holiday foods.”
Expose Yourself to Sunlight
If you always feel lethargic, irritable, and sad during this time of year, it may not be because of the holidays. A lack of exposure to the sun might be the culprit. A quick 15-minute walk during daylight may treat a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Never Shy Away from Asking for Help
For many people with depression, asking for help might be the hardest, yet the strongest thing they ever do. Depression is a lonely and isolating illness. Getting support from others, including your family, friends, or a professional, can help keep you going.