Feeling Depressed Over The Holidays?

December 8, 2015 - 9:28am Updated: December 9, 2015 - 11:20am

By:  Sasha Sukkhu , B.Sc (Psych.Hons), B.Ed, M.Ed, DCS - School Counsellor

As I glance out the window at the falling snow I'm reminded of the wonderful mild weather that we were fortunate to have this year into mid-November. A feeling of sadness often accompanies the sudden change in weather and it seems that we are never quite ready for that first blast of winter.

 It is however a reminder of the upcoming holiday season that promises so much. Family gatherings, office parties, gift giving, over-eating and over-spending.  Such a busy time!

The days are shorter as we have less daylight in the Northern hemisphere and the absence of sufficient sunlight with its essential vitamin D makes for a long winter ahead.

It is easy to become overwhelmed at this time of year for a variety of reasons.  Instead of rejoicing in the happiness of the season it's not uncommon to feel down and depressed as we head into the New Year. Holiday depression is now acknowledged as a very real phenomenon. For many individuals the holidays can be a lonely time away from family members.This could be work related or relocation related even relationship related, complicated by issues of ill health or due to the loss of loved ones.

So without dwelling on gloomy thoughts, what are some useful strategies to help you survive the holidays this year?

A good idea that I have found effective is to make a list of all the things you would like to accomplish over the next few weeks. Then prioritize your tasks.  

Prioritizing what you can handle is a good way of self-assessing whether you are becoming overwhelmed or not. Go further and break down your list by asking yourself the following questions: Is the task essential?  Is the task realistic?  Lists help to keep track of the process and provide a good visual aid to understanding our limitations.

Ask yourself how you are feeling periodically.  What is your level of comfort?  - Would attending a friend's Christmas function make you feel comfortable or overwhelmed because of the social expectations and contributions that you would have to make?

Aim not to overextend yourself - Am I financially capable of achieving what's on my list or am I going to be overextending myself?  Will I end up going into debt that I will have to deal with for months to come? 

These questions also relate to the issue of over indulgence as well. Eating and consuming alcohol in excess, binge eating and a lack of a regular exercise routine at this time of year can directly contribute towards feeling depressed.

The reality is that being cognizant of these pitfalls is not an easy task.Talking with loved ones about how you are coping and limiting tasks to the essentials will help. However, if you find yourself starting to feel down and stressed-out over the holidays, make a new list of all the positive relaxing things that you enjoy doing and start focusing on accomplishing what's on that list instead!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Living a Happy Life
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