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How to Cope with Holiday and Seasonal Blues

By Benjamin Kaplan, MD, Internal Medicine Physician at Orlando Health

‍The holidays are celebrated as a festive and joyful time, but they also can trigger depression.

For some, seeing distant relatives and feeling that everything must be perfect can cause stress and anxiety. Others may see the holidays as a time that they are without loved ones. Financial concerns also may surface as individuals feel pressure to participate in costly gift giving and decorating.

How to Deal with Holiday Blues

To help cope with depression during the holiday season, the National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests that you:

Holiday blues can lead to depression.
  • Try to set modest expectations for the holidays. Keep a log of your spending and have a range you would like to stay within. This may help prevent feelings of disappointment, being let down or letting others down.
  • Know that it is okay to feel sad or lonely – it happens to all of us.
  • Spend time with friends and other people you enjoy, if spending time with relatives is a source of depression.
  • Do some things you want to do, not just the things you have to do because it is the holiday season. It’s fine to say no sometimes.
  • Exercise to keep the body and mind healthy when the weather is nice and if you like being outdoors.
  • Understand that the holidays will be a difficult time if you have lost a loved one, but know that it’s okay to enjoy the festivities and the company of others. Try to remember your loved one in a way that brings you joy and focus on the times that you shared.

Is It Seasonal Blues?

Those with a diagnosed history of depression or a mood disorder also can be affected by the physical change from summer to winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), often associated with lower levels of sunlight, is most common in the fall and winter months and then subsides in the spring.

For those with SAD, bright light therapy has been shown to sustain mood and promote higher energy levels. Keep in mind that this therapy should be under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

If you find your depression symptoms worsening and strategies such as these are not helping, set up an appointment with your primary care physician. Your doctor is a great resource to help get symptoms under control.

This blog was written in conjunction with Florida State University College of Medicine students. | Originally published by Orlando Health; reprinted with permission.

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