While the holidays can bring joy to many people, seasonal depression and anxiety grips millions of Americans each year.
“The holidays can be a stressful time for many people,” said Daniel Carlat, MD, chair of psychiatry at MelroseWakefield Hospital. “For those experiencing feelings of grief, loss, loneliness, or depression, the added demands of the holidays can add pressure and be overwhelming. It is important to acknowledge those feelings and find the right support.”
Dr. Carlat said that the stress of the holiday crunch, in addition to changes in the weather and shorter periods of sunlight during the winter months, can create potential problems, and offers the following tips to help manage holiday stress, anxiety and depression.
Engage. The holidays can be a good time to reach out to community, religious or other groups to get involved or do some volunteering. Some people feel lonely and isolated, and this can be a good way to stay active and engaged.
Plan ahead. Set a schedule and a budget ahead of time for the many holiday activities such as shopping, cooking and visiting. Sticking with your schedule and budget and reduce the last minute crunch on your time and your wallet. Don’t be afraid to say “no” if you need a break.
Take care of yourself. With busy holiday schedules, some people forget to stick with healthy habits. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and exercise, try to not overindulge (which can lead to more stress and guilt), and take some relaxation or meditation time for yourself.
Seek professional help if you need to. If you are feeling persistently sad or hopeless, have a number of physical complaints, can’t sleep or feel unable to participate in normal activities, you may need to speak with a professional. Call your primary care provider and have an honest discussion with them about your feelings.
Daniel Carlat, MD, is chair of psychiatry at MelroseWakefield Hospital.