It’s a myth suicide is more common around the holidays. Actually people are more prone to commit suicide in the springtime according to psychiatric experts. However, depression and stress seems more prevalent during the holiday season. Why? Because many issues come to the surface during this vulnerable time such as dealing with the loss of a loved one who is no longer here to share in the holiday season, financial woes, pressure to give gifts, entertaining and housing visiting difficult family members for the short holiday season. I can go on and on with various reasons why the holidays create so much stress, but I won’t. Instead, I offer some practical tips to help you with minimizing stress and depression that often comes with the holidays.
- Acknowledge Your Feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or even passed away a few years ago, it’s normal to feel sadness and grieve their loss, especially during this time. It’s okay to cry and express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- Volunteer. Seek out agencies in your community such as a homeless shelter, food bank or a nursing home and spend time helping others less fortunate than you. A lot of homeless shelters/Food Banks have food drives and community dinners during the holiday season and are in need of volunteers. Nursing homes welcome volunteers who don’t mind doing activities with their residents such as reading their favorite newspaper, playing cards etc.
- Start A New Tradition. This works best after the loss of a major family member such as a parent, sister, brother or husband. Do something different. If the holidays were always spent at the family homestead, go to the beach or mountains instead. Mourn your loss but also celebrate a new beginning, a new tradition for the whole family to embrace.
- Set Aside Differences. Accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Delay your grievances until a more appropriate time to discuss. Be understanding when others become upset and distressed. Remember they are feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression too.
- Don’t Over Spend. I know. You want to give everybody a present, but your pocketbook is stopping you. Don’t buy happiness with a bunch of gifts. Instead give homemade gifts, schedule a dinner date or start a family gift exchange. You will find it’s easier on your pocketbook and less stressful too.
- Learn To Say No. Saying “yes” when you should say “no” can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. If you don’t feel like attending a function because it’s reminds you of an activity you shared with a deceased loved one, don’t go. Usually friends will understand. For those of you overwhelmed by too many invitations to various events, select two or three by your very close friends and bypass the others. After all, there’s not enough time to make every party or event.
- Don’t Overeat Or Binge On Alcohol. Don’t let the holidays ruin your good eating habits. Overindulgence only adds to your stress. Instead, eat a healthy snack before attending holiday parties so you don’t indulge on too many sweets. Be moderate in your alcohol intake and drink plenty of water after to minimize the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
- Work Out. Exercising releases endorphins minimizing stress. Go to the gym. Take a zumba class. Take a walk. Not only does exercising help you emotionally, it also keeps unwanted weight gain at bay.
- Get Enough Sleep. Studies have shown there is a strong link between sleep loss and depression. Holiday activities can interfere with your sleep if you allow it too. Make a strong effort to stick with your normal bedtime. Avoid large meals and strenuous exercise a few hours before bedtime. Make your bedroom, a sleep haven. No television blaring in the background and turn off your cell phone. The goal is to get plenty of rest to keep your stress level under control.
- Laugh. There’s an old saying, “Laughter Is The Best Medicine.” There’s truth to this statement. Laughter decreases stress, releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel good chemicals. Endorphins give the body and mind an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily ease pain. It also improves cardiac health by lowering blood pressure. Laughter is God’s natural gift to combating stress so use it. Go to a comedy show, see a funny movie or read a humorous novel like “The Cat on Salter’s Point” this holiday season. So I say to you all, De-stress, Stay calm and Enjoy your holiday season! Happy Holidays Everyone!
Categories: Short Stories