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‘Tis the season for stress







The holiday season is a joyful time for many people, but also a time that brings an enormous amount of stress for some, especially those with depression.  Stress is an emotionally and physically disturbing condition you may have in response to certain life events.  In this case it includes the change in daily routine and overload of responsibilities that are common during the holidays.

Holiday stress begins with a “should” list that is bound to get anyone into trouble.  I “should” do this or go to that function or get that gift.  I “should” prepare a holiday feast for my family or make a gift like Martha Stewart!  Beware of the word “should”.  We all have a desire to please others by making the holidays picture-card perfect, but that is not reality.  You may tend to take on an overload of responsibilities and feel guilty if you cannot live up to that self-imposed standard.  Or when depressed, you may not feel like doing any of it and then feel guilty later for ignoring our loved ones.  Do what you can realistically do this year.  Take a step back and learn to say “no” if necessary during this time so as not to overcommit yourself.

Another source of stress is an upset in one’s daily routine by attending holiday-related social functions, shopping in crowded malls or making holiday-related meals and gifts for loved ones.  This can take up quite a bit of time and be more unsettling than you realize.   When you are suffering from depression or bipolar depression, dealing with such daily changes can be more difficult.  It is thought that small changes in one’s daily routine challenges the body’s ability to maintain stability, and that those with mood disorders have more difficult time adapting to these changes in routine.

A third source of stress is getting together with distant family members or friends with whom you may have very little in common any more.  You may feel it as an obligation and not a joy of the season, and may dread the anticipated unpleasant interaction but do it for the sake of “family”.  There is a way to cope effectively with this stressor which I will discuss in my blog next week.

So, holiday stress arrives anyway and now what do you do?  There are ways that you can manage it and lessen the effect of the stressful events.  These are called coping techniques.  First, maintain a regular schedule of daily activities, including diet/nutrition, sleep, exercise, and self-care.  Enjoy the holiday food but don’t over-eat and be sorry later. Try to prioritize your responsibilities and activities and don’t overschedule, if possible.  Break down large tasks into smaller steps.  Keep a calendar and make lists of what you have to do.  Use problem solving strategies.  Try relaxation and self-soothing techniques regularly.  Use humor to distract your mind – a funny book or movie often works wonders.  Try mindfulness meditation.  All of these are explained in my book Managing Your Depression: What you can do to feel better.

Stay well!


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