Tips For Beating Seasonal Blues

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During the winter, and especially around the holidays, many people find themselves becoming more sad, lonely, depressed or anxious than at any other time of year.

Ann Barnes, Psy.D., R.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and registered dietitian on the medical staff of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, offers the following holiday survival tips:

1. Set realistic expectations. It is important to identify how realistic your expectations are. Remember -- you have not failed if you choose not to do what was done in the past.

2. Simplify. Talk with your family and others about ways to express love and care without needing to keep up with the neighbors or the catalogues.

3. Reflect on meaning. Reflect on the meaning the holidays hold for you and for others. Evaluate your activities to see how they reflect the deeper significance of the celebration.

4. Plan ahead, but live in the moment. Planning ahead can be a great way to reduce stress. Remember, however, to enjoy the moment and avoid second guessing what has happened, or anticipating the next event. Be flexible with expectations.

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5. Review the past. Use your experiences of holidays gone by to guide your present holiday times. Review and prepare so you are consistent with the way you want to spend the holidays.

6. Nourish your spirit. For persons within faith traditions, faith can enrich the meaning, value and purpose of the holiday and of life afterwards. Find an affirmation and read daily to inspire you during the holidays. Find a holiday buddy to connect with to provide support, understanding and empathy.

7. Include others. The holidays can be an excellent time to help others by volunteering at a shelter or service agency, or assisting someone with a need. In helping others, you fight the temptation to feel sorry for yourself or increase your isolation.

8. Take care of yourself first. Realize the value of caring for you. Do not allow yourself to become overly tired. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Under eating during the day in advance of a party is a set-up to overeat! Limit alcohol consumption. Get some exercise and regular sleep.

9. Let it be okay to say “no” to some things. Moderation in all things is a good rule of thumb for self-care.

10. Respect all emotions. Contrary to the perpetuated myth that holidays are ‘the season to be jolly,’ feelings of marked sadness, loss or loneliness may be present as you mourn the loss of loved ones. Monitor for symptoms of deeper depression or impairing anxiety. If these feelings become too intense or persist, consider getting help from a trained therapist.

“Most important is to manage holiday stress by caring for the whole person - body, mind and spirit,” Dr. Barnes said.

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