Beat the Holiday Blues
Are you depressed?
It seems like a strange thing to ask at Christmas time, when we see our families, exchange presents, and eat too much. But some people do get depressed. Contrary to popular myth, the suicide rate doesn’t go up at Christmas, but there’s no doubt that it can be stressful.
Depression doesn’t have to mean crying all the time or jumping off a bridge. Some of the other symptoms are fatigue, sadness, hopelessness, or an inability to find pleasure in normally enjoyable activities (called “anhedonia“). And that’s no way to spend your holidays.
Here are some things you can do to beat the blues:
Get enough sleep
Yes, I know it’s difficult. But inadequate sleep is one thing that can cause depression. Avoid bright light in the evening hours, especially blue light, because it can interfere with your sleep. Avoid caffeine or chocolate after 6pm (unless you’re a college student like me 🙂 ). Don’t exercise too late in the evening, because it speeds up your metabolism and makes it hard to wind down for sleep. Go to bed at about the same time every night. Keep your bedroom just a little cool. All those things will help you get more sleep and better sleep.
Exercise releases endorphins in your brain, which promote feelings of happiness and well-being. Try to do it for at least 20 minutes. Just don’t do it late in the evening, which can make it hard to sleep. (The usual warnings about checking with your doctor if you have a medical condition that affects your ability to exercise, blah blah blah.)
Activity is another natural antidote for depression. The paradox is that when you’re depressed, you don’t feel like doing anything. But if you can use sheer will power to overcome that inertia, you might find yourself feeling better. It almost doesn’t matter what the activity is: taking a brisk walk in the park, playing cards with friends, going to the gym, or going to the mall and window-shopping.
When you’re depressed, you don’t feel like smiling. That’s the basis of the trick. Grandmothers (and psychologists, if there’s a difference) have known for centuries that if you smile and act happy, you can often fool your brain into thinking that you are happy. It’s the psychological version of “fake it till you make it.” So don’t hang your head, slouch, or walk slowly. Raise your head high, straighten your shoulders, stride energetically, and smile!
Forgive yourself and others. Nobody (around here) is perfect. We all mess up sometimes. We all do and say things we regret. Failing to forgive means you are holding onto past hurts so that they keep hurting you. Let them go. Turn away from the hurt and turn toward happiness.
If none of that works …
Those are all remedies that you can try without drugs or psychotherapy. Everyone feels sad or stressed at times, and that’s normal. If you have a more severe problem that keeps you from enjoying life or even makes you think of hurting yourself, then you should talk to your doctor, religious leader, or to a psychotherapist.
But for now, smile and enjoy Christmas! You are special, you are loved, and you are important. Merry Christmas!
Copyright 2009 by Rinth de Shadley.