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It's the most wonderful time of the year ...

Photo by Tony Cuenca on Unsplash. Holly wreath. Sanctuary Christian Counseling in Shippensburg, PA

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

But not always.

The number of people who suffer from holiday-related depression and anxiety is large, diverse and sad. For many, the holidays are just not all that great.

For some, it’s that empty seat at the table, the one that will never truly be filled again, no matter who sits in it. Others mourn the lack of money or resources to celebrate in a desired fashion. For many, family gatherings can be a source of stress, angst and drama. Some people just find their expanded holiday to-do lists overwhelming. Others are reacting to the decreased daylight, which causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in some.

For those who already struggle with anxiety or depression, it can be a lot worse.

Here are some strategies that can minimize the effects, and help you have a happier holiday.

* Stick to your regular routine, as much as you can. While it’s great to have that cookie-baking date, or go to a new movie and a party every weekend, be realistic about what you can get done, and give yourself some time to just relax and enjoy.

* Focus on others. Taking your thoughts away from anxiety and/or depression and thinking about how you can help others will help lessen the stress and just make you feel good in general. This is especially effective when the others are loved ones.

* Prepare yourself to be anxious. Know what helps you calm down, and be prepared to do it. Have built-in low-key times when you can kick back and focus on the meaning of the holiday, and the love of friends and family.

*Get some sunlight. Even if you don’t have SAD, sunlight boosts serotonin and makes you feel better. Exercise in the sunlight – even better.

*Be mindful in connecting with others, inside and outside your home. Be present as you interact – this time will not come again: make the most of it. You can stay present by grounding yourself in the five senses: focus intensely on each in turn (smell, taste, sight, hearing, touch) as you relax and enjoy the moment.

*It seems like hot, spicy food, honey, mangoes and citrus foods decrease feelings of anxiety but coffee can make you irritable.

* Reach out for help. When the feelings get overwhelming, maybe it’s time to seek help from experienced mental health providers. We can be valuable resources for support and help at holiday time as well as other times of the year.

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