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Dealing with Depression over the Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be the most festive time of the year, but for some, the additional responsibilities, extra financial burdens, and shorter, darker days can conspire to produce more blues than merriment. Caregivers, who are already stretched thin, are doubly vulnerable to holiday sadness. Some may find that changes to the daily routine has caused their loved one to become difficult to manage, while others may see the season as a terrible marker of their family member’s deteriorating condition.

“Absolutely, we see depression increase during the holidays …” Rose Madden-Baer, VNSNY.

“The holidays are a busy time of year in terms of having to cope with all that needs to be done,” says Rose Madden-Baer, MSN, MSHA, at VNSNY. “Often, spending too much becomes an issue. And if you are experiencing a recent loss, you might find yourself comparing the holidays to past times.”

What can you do to shake the holiday blues?

Be the Squeaky Wheel

If you sense you might be getting depressed, research shows it helps to talk about it. According to a depression fact sheet from NYU’s Langone Medical Center, people suffering from depression during the holidays actually receive more support from family and friends. Take advantage of social gatherings to reach out to others, stay connected, and get the help you need.

Do Half of What You’re “Supposed to” Do

It just might be impossible to accomplish all the things you set out to do. If you don’t get Christmas cards out this year or can’t seem to finish knitting that hat for your nephew, cut yourself some slack. The holidays can really cause us to set unrealistic expectations, and, well, we can’t all be Martha Stewart.

Do Good

Take your mind off your own troubles by helping others in need. If you can manage to squeeze it in, spend a few hours volunteering at a soup kitchen, or take up a collection of canned goods, clothes, or toys, or round up some friends and go caroling at a nursing home or children’s hospital. Sometimes altruism can be the best medicine.

Eat Well

A colorful array of holiday cookies and treats can be enticing, but all the sugar and carbohydrates can zap your energy and then your spirits—especially if combined with too much alcohol. Try to stick to healthy eating patterns during the holidays, emphasizing lean meats, leafy vegetables, whole grains, and good fats, and keep holiday indulgences to a minimum.

Spend Wisely

Holiday shopping can be a pleasant distraction, but if you’re spending more than you should, you could end up with a case of retail hangover. Avoid the anxiety and remorse that comes with high credit card bills by being sensible about gift-giving. Your friends and family won’t love you any less.

Plan Diversions

Tap into the things you used to enjoy. Rekindling connections to past experiences can be beneficial, whether your areas of interest are playing cards, watching a game, listening to music, or dancing a night away.

Get Some Down Time

Enlist family members to help out with your caregiving duties and get some time to yourself to spend however you wish.

If what you are experiencing is more than a transient case of the blues and is associated with a persistent feeling of sadness over a long period of time as well as loss of interest in things that previously brought you joy, notify your primary care physician as soon as possible.

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