Coping with Holiday Blues walking in the cold

Holiday cheer doesn’t come natural to everyone. And this time of year can sometimes play with your emotions. If the stresses of the season and life have you down, the following tips could help bring you out of your holiday blues. 

Be Active. If you are feeling blue or depressed, the natural tendency is to do less. Your energy may sag and it may be hard to enjoy things that used to give pleasure. But if you become less active, depression can get worse. A vicious cycle of reduced activity and increased depression can lead you down into a rut that is hard to escape. So, try to do as much as you can to break this pattern. Make a brief list of activities that you might enjoy, and build some of these activities into a plan to be more active.

Watch for Negative Thinking. When moods turn to sadness, the thoughts that go through our minds are often full of negativity. During the holidays, negative, worrisome, or discouraging thoughts might be making things worse. To counter negativity, try to stop and listen to your inner thoughts. Are they too extreme? Are you focusing only on the problems – the things you don’t have, wish you have, or think you never will have? Is your mind full of regret or self-criticism? If so, try to check these thoughts out. How accurate are they? Is your sad mood interfering with your recalling some of more positive or hopeful parts of your life?

Take Good Care of Yourself. Research studies have shown that lifestyle and personal habits can make a big difference in overcoming the blues and even clinical depression. Aerobic exercise (for example, walking, jogging, or riding a bike) about three times a week for at least 30 minutes has been found to be an effective method for overcoming depression. And people who eat the Mediterranean Diet have half the risk of depression as those who don’t follow this healthy eating plan. The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes use of olive oil instead of butter and is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts. It is the opposite of a diet that is high in fast foods. Because depression can make people drink too much alcohol or use illegal drugs, an important caution is to avoid the temptation to “party” too hard during the holiday season – or any time of the year.

Reach Out – Connect to People. Depression often makes people withdraw into themselves and to spend less time with others. This isolation usually escalates the problem. Although you may feel like hibernating and not participating in social activities, it usually helps to connect to family, friends, co-workers and others who you know.

Get Some Light into Your Life. If you notice that your mood drops and you begin to feel depressed when the days grow shorter and there is less natural light, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This problem can be combatted with a light box (available on the internet) that produces 10,000 Lux (a measure of light intensity). It is usually recommended that people with SAD get exposure to 10,000 Lux of light for about 30 minutes each morning during the season of the year when there is less natural light.

Need a physician?

If you need a physician, please call (502) 588-6000 or click here. Depression is an illness. Treatment at the UofL Depression Center begins with a comprehensive evaluation by a specialist in mood disorders. To learn more about the UofL Depression Center or to make an appointment, call (502) 588-4450.

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Article by: Jesse Wright, M.D., Ph.D.

Jesse H. Wright, M.D., Ph.D. is a nationally recognized psychiatrist with UofL Physicians - Psychiatry & Depression Center. He is the founding Director of the University of Louisville Depression Center and is a teacher and researcher with the University of Louisville Department of Psychiatry. His first novel, A Stream to Follow, published in April 2022, was described by Reader’s Favorite as “. . . a standout novel in post-WWII fiction that will grip your heart and never truly let go.”. He is also the principal author of eight medical or self-help books, including best-selling texts that are used worldwide for learning the methods of cognitive-behavior therapy. His most recent self-help book, Breaking Free from Depression: Pathways to Wellness, was written with his daughter, Laura McCray, M.D. Dr. Wright’s research has focused on developing and testing digital tools for enhancing psychotherapy and increasing access to effective treatment.

All posts by Jesse Wright, M.D., Ph.D.
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