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The Christmas season can be a double-edged sword.
It brings with it feelings of love, togetherness and joy. But many people find themselves stepping around emotional landmines for the entire month of December.
The overwhelming presence of Christmas, and what many see as the forced happiness and commercial hype that goes with it, often trigger feelings of anxiety and depression.
Even if you are not prone to these feelings during the rest of the year, the holidays can trigger difficult feelings that you didn’t know were there.
Here are some of those “land mines” to look out for, and some healthy ways to cope and have a truly rewarding holiday season.
8 depression triggers and how to cope with them
1. Family gatherings. If going home triggers bad memories, or if your family always ends up fighting at the dinner table, you can be there and still cope by focusing on the things you’re looking forward to, like your favorite pie, or catching up with a cousin.
Also, it’s OK to set a time limit for your visit. Or if going is just too much, RSVP with a polite “No.”
2. Over-commercialization. This one can really depress you unless you focus on whatever is truly meaningful to you about the holidays: spending time with loved ones, and sticking to simple traditions.
Also, making a donation to charity, instead of spending a fortune on trying to outdo last year’s gifts, can help lift your spirits.
3. Over-committing. As the holiday party invitations roll in, it’s so tempting to say “Yes” to every single one, for fear of offending someone.
Here’s an idea” practice saying “no, thank you” in front of a mirror. Sounds silly, but it really helps. Your first commitment should be to yourself, and to staying healthy and well-rested during the holidays.
4. Financial worries. You don’t have to go into massive debt to show your friends and family that you care. Before you start shopping for gifts, create a budget and stick to it.
And don’t forget that some of the most meaningful gifts of all don’t cost much: a book you know they’ll enjoy, a personalized journal or a handmade gift with a sincere note are all gifts that anyone would love to receive.
5. Unrealistic expectations. This one will kill your holiday spirits like nothing else. Life is hectic all year. Don’t add the pressure of trying to produce a perfect holiday, while acting cheerful. You’re bound to end up feeling exhausted, which leads to feeling depressed.
Instead, make it a point to sidestep perfectionism. No time to bake Santa cookies for your son’s classmates? Store-bought cookies are just fine.
6. Fatigue. This one goes right along with perfectionism. Spending your days at the mall and your nights wrapping presents, while also baking treats for the neighbors, will take its toll.
Instead, make time to rest and renew. You won’t enjoy your holidays if you’re walking around in a fog of exhaustion. Plan nights with no commitments and an early bedtime.
7. Breaking healthy habits. If you overindulge with some extra dessert, don’t let that mean that all bets are off, and the healthy habits you’ve worked at all year go out the window. You’ll end up listening to that self-critical voice in your ear for days afterward. Nothing like that to ruin a holiday!
Tomorrow is a fresh start. With a little planning, you can begin the day with fresh fruit and other healthy food, eat a healthy snack before going to a party to curb your appetite, and keep your exercise and eating routine pretty close to normal. Remember, exercise has been shown to be a powerful remedy for anxiety, which often accompanies depression.
8. Shorter days, lack of sunlight. If you’re becoming more sad and anxious as the days get shorter, and find yourself sleeping during the day and losing interest in activities you enjoy, you could be one of those people who experience a mild form of winter onset seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
If you have these symptoms, talk to your doctor. You’re not alone, and effective treatments are available.
Also, here are five proven ways to beat the winter blues.
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