We Americans do not waste any time celebrating the holidays. Fall is basically a revolving door for different decorations and traditional foods. The copper-colored, plastic leaves and cinnamon candles are almost immediately knocked off the shelves for wreaths, and the Christmas tree is fair game before December has even arrived. For me, the holiday season starts after October 31. As soon as things get spooky, I can already taste the Thanksgiving casseroles, smell the Christmas trees and hear loud family gatherings. Religious celebrations, time off from work and school, gifts– I could go on about why I love the holidays so much. But as I grow up, I have become less jaded and my childhood wonderment surrounding the holidays fades. Long lines, expensive lists and high expectations add up. The holidays can be magical, but they can also really drain us. Unfortunately for some, the holidays bring hard time, and some can even suffer from holiday depression.

Uma Survadevara, M.D., is a UF Health Psychiatrist and believes that seasonal depression can be regular depression that is amplified by the stress that comes with the holidays. It is no surprise that her number of patients increase during the holiday season. Dr. John Sharp, a psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is quoted on Health.com saying that seasonal fatigue and irritability could be attributed to lack of sun exposure. SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder is common and can be treated by spending more time outside during daylight hours.

The holidays, at their core, are supposed to be a time for appreciation and love. If they are bringing you down, this is your year to turn it around!

Whether you love the holidays or dread them, there are ways to make this time more enjoyable and less overwhelming:

  1. Plan Ahead: Make your lists, schedule your time and understand that no one expects you to do everything. The holiday rush and last minute cooking, shopping and cleaning is unnecessary.
  2. Take care of yourself: This means exercising daily, eating well, staying hydrated and doing a little something extra for yourself, even if that’s something small like getting your nails done. This is a great way to combat holiday depression.
  3. Don’t let the holiday expectations take you away from the things you love: When we get stressed, we tend to let the laundry lists of responsibilities take all of our time. Sleep. Go to a movie one night. Read a chapter of that book. Do something that you enjoy, and do it for you!
  4. Switch things up: What is it about the season that really bothers you? Maybe make a change. Nobody is forcing you to stay in a routine or habit that isn’t serving you or your family. Be creative and get out of your comfort zone.
 by Stephanie Cornwell