The Therapy Room: Winter Holiday Survival Tips for Anxiety and Depression

Posted on 21 December 2017 by LeslieM

The Therapy Room: Winter Holiday Survival Tips for Anxiety and Depression

The winter holidays cause many to experience unwanted stress, anxiety and depression. Many factors trigger such reactions and include unrealistic expectations of self and others, financial pressures, making too many commitments to family, co-workers and friends, and, sometimes, even focusing on the inability to be with those you believe you would prefer to be with.

Certain individuals feel anxious or depressed around the winter holidays due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is also referred to as seasonal depression. SAD is a kind of depression that tends to occur as daylight grows shorter in the fall and winter months and, therefore, is a result of inadequate exposure to sunlight.

The symptoms of SAD include tiredness, fatigue, sadness, irritability, poor concentration, muscular pain, insomnia, appetite changes, excessive alcohol consumption, social isolation and loneliness. Lifestyle changes that are proven to decrease SAD symptoms include spending more time outdoors, exercising and maintaining healthy eating habits. Psychotherapy, light therapy, acupuncture and medications are additional options to consider to decrease SAD symptoms.

Organizing and balancing the demands of holiday gifts and food shopping, family obligations, social gathering events and even house guests contribute to feelings of stress, anxiety, being overwhelmed and increased tension.

If someone dismisses depression, they may actually develop stress responses and experience physical and emotional symptoms, such as headaches, over-eating, insomnia or excessive alcohol consumption. Some individuals also experience anxiety and depression after the New Year due to high expectations leading to extreme disappointments.

Many of us think about loved ones who have passed away during the winter holidays. Love does not end in death and it is important that we keep such loved ones alive by the way we live. Include memories of them during your holiday gatherings and celebration by decorating a wreath with items that remind you of them, display happy memory pictures, make their favorite dish for your family and friends to enjoy, or light a candle and reflect on the light they continue to bring to your life.

For those suffering from winter holiday anxiety or depression, benefits may be realized by increasing social support, asking for help and sharing family holiday responsibilities, such as food shopping and preparation, maintaining a budget for gift purchases and making, and taking, time to relax. Psychotherapy and support groups can help you gain insight into your holiday blues, relieve stress and bring a layer of needed social support.

Tips to prevent stress, anxiety and depression during the winter holidays:

Set realistic goals and make realistic expectations

Do not take on more responsibilities than you can manage — delegate!

Do not set yourself up for disappointment and sadness

Volunteer and help others — you will be helping yourself as well!

Limit or do not drink alcohol — excessive alcohol consumption increases feelings of depression

Reach out and make new friends — spend time with supportive people

Winter holidays bring anxiety and depression into many lives and can be managed by implementing the above tips. Also consider seeking individual psychotherapy or group support if these symptoms become overwhelming and too much of a burden. This winter holiday season make time for yourself and consider doing something new — change is possible!

Dr. Julia Breur, Ph. D., LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a private clinical psychotherapy practice in Boca Raton, Florida. Further information available at www.drjuliabreur.com.

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