How to Avoid the Holiday Blues

The holiday season can be a complicated time. For some, it’s full of joy and excitement while others experience sadness and anxiety. In fact, more than half of Americans (58%) consider the holidays more stressful than not. But by implementing certain behaviors, a person can better manage their emotional challenges. Here are some tips on how to navigate the season and avoid the holiday blues:

  • Eat a Balanced Diet: A healthy diet is critical to sustaining one’s mental and physical health. Studies have found that diets high in refined sugar may worsen symptoms of mood disorders, including depression. Be sure to balance holiday treats with a variety of nutrient-dense foods.
  • Express Gratitude: To minimize negative thoughts or feelings, practice behaviors that promote positive thinking. Focus on people and experiences that promote joy and gratitude. By training the brain to actively replace negative thoughts with positive ones, a person’s mindset can change over time.
  • Get Enough Sleep: The body needs adequate rest to recharge and function at its best. Yet, more than one-third of adults fail to get the recommended seven to nine hours. This can lead to various side effects like fatigue, irritability, confusion and reduced coordination. Make quality sleep a top priority.
  • Meditate: Historically, meditation has been used to increase focus and self-awareness. But it can also lead to reduced blood pressure as well as improved sleep and decision-making. This low-maintenance practice can be done anywhere, at any time, in just few minutes a day.
  • Monitor Symptoms: It’s important to note changes in behavior and attitude during the holiday season. Chronic fatigue, drastic mood swings or forced isolation are signs a more serious issue may exist. If feelings become overwhelming and inhibit daily functions, embrace the opportunity to open up or seek professional help.
  • Schedule Time for Exercise: Thirty minutes of physical activity a day can improve overall health and boost mood. Taking a walk, stretching or making time for an exercise class can ease the mind and combat negative thoughts and feelings. It’s a form of self-care that produces notable long and short-term benefits.
  • Set Boundaries: Avoid situations, environments or people who create feelings of sadness or anxiety. Don’t feel obligated to abide by “normal” holiday arrangements, especially if they generate stress. Individuals who prioritize their mental health during this time are less likely to experience burnout.
  • Stick to a Budget: More than 80% of Americans are stressed over holiday spending. It’s one of the biggest contributors to increased anxiety. Prevent financial strain by creating a budget and sticking to it. Use a spending app, excel sheet or notepad to track new purchases. Documenting each item helps to avoid duplicates or unnecessary buying.
  • Volunteer: Combat feelings of loss or loneliness by giving back to others. Studies show volunteering has positive effects on overall well-being. It can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and provide a renewed sense of purpose. Look for opportunities at local food banks, homeless shelters, nursing homes and hospitals.

About the Author: Dr. Kristyn Gregory, DO, is a medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

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