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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 spending, and shorter days can cause more blues than joy. Caregivers, who are already stretched thin, are doubly vulnerable to holiday sadness. For some, changes to their loved one’s daily routine may cause agitation. For others, the season brings up reminders of happier times.

“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 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, 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 used to do. If you don’t have time to write holiday cards or make gifts, 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. Spend a few hours volunteering at a soup kitchen, 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

Faced with a tempting tray of holiday cookies and treats? All the sugar 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. Load up on lean meats, leafy vegetables, whole grains, and good fats, and keep holiday indulgences to a minimum.

Spend Wisely

Holiday shopping can be fun. But if you spend more than you should, you might end up with a case of retail hangover. Avoid the regret 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. Revisit past activities, whether that’s 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 you are experiencing more than a transient case of the blues, 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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