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Once again the holidays are upon us, which means it’s time for festive partying with friends and family, sharing gifts and laughter—and, for some, worsening signs of depression—loneliness, grief, hopelessness, or overwhelming sadness. Fortunately, experts have found that you don’t have to let all of the pressures of this holiday season overwhelm you to the point of intensifying or causing depression. Using the top 10 strategies outlined below for beating depression to help you cope with the stresses of negotiating family issues and missing lost loved ones.
1. Be honest with yourself about what you can do.
To help quell unrealistic expectations, be honest with yourself about what you can do during the holiday season. Set realistic goals, pace yourself and get enough rest. Remind yourself that the holiday season is not a time to cure all past problems. If your holiday plans require you to run around shopping and going to social events until you are exhausted, and staying up all night to wrap presents, your plans aren’t very realistic.
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2. Release the need to please others.
This is another way to help manage unrealistic expectations, that is to release the need to please others and instead start to please yourself. Instead of living up to others’ expectations, spend time thinking about and creating the kind of holiday you want, doing what will bring you joy and happiness.
3. Do an act of kindness.
To help combat loneliness, experts recommend doing something for someone else. If you volunteer your time this holiday season to help others who have less than you do, you take the focus off of yourself. Putting that focus on others can really make you feel much better. Not only can you help other people, but doing so will add a lot more meaning to your holiday season.
4. Learn to delegate.
To make everything more manageable, delegate. Don’t try to do it all by yourself. People often want to help and to be involved. Break down tasks and dole them out to friends and family. Let others help you and share in the responsibility of activities.
5. Make sure you spend some time by yourself.
If you find yourself getting anxious about all the socializing, take a breather and spend some time alone. Some people love the energy of social events, but for others it’s exhausting. Relax and recharge by find a quiet spot.
6. Focus your thoughts on the joy of the present.
If your holidays aren’t like they used to be, be aware of comparing today with the past. Let go of the past to avoid being disappointed. Instead of dwelling on the fact that the “good old days” are gone, embrace the little joys of the present, the open possibilities of the future, and the fact that life brings changes.
7. Be aware of the dangers of excessive alcohol and avoid becoming a victim.
If you have the tendency to overindulge or self-medicate with alcohol, don’t drink too much. Remember that excessive drinking will only make your depression symptoms worse in the long run.
8. Embrace the marvel of who you are—right now.
If you find yourself focusing on what’s lacking, what’s not good enough, or what’s not perfect, give yourself a break by recognizing that these are just thoughts. For instance, don’t think in absolute terms, like you’re the worst cook, the most horrible mother, or the loneliest person in the world. You may not be top chef, super mom, or Mr. Popularity, but you’re not the worst.
9. Engage the family in an activity together and call it a new family tradition.
Whatever family or friends you do have present during the holidays, do something together and view it as a new family tradition! These traditions don’t have to be formal or elaborate. For instance, you could visit a nursing home to help serve holiday meals to some of the residents, or videotape holiday celebrations and make an annual event of watching the previous year’s celebration.
10. Give attention to your own health.
Take care of your health by getting plenty of sleep, eating nutritiously, and staying physically active. Go out for a short walk and breath some fresh air. Supplements and other natural treatments to support your mood and help combat the negative effects of stress can be extra helpful during the holidays. For example, vitamin D and essential fatty acid deficiencies can cause depression and are easily remedied with supplementation. Adrenal dysfunction is also a common cause of depression and can be remedied with natural treatments.
Let the holidays lift your spirits with these top tips. Merry Christmas!
Originally published in 2013, this post is regularly updated