The holiday season brings a whirlwind of joy, festivities, and togetherness. However, for some, the winter months can also usher in a sense of melancholy known as seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). As a health coach, I aim to shed light on this phenomenon and offer practical tips to help you navigate the holiday blues and maintain your well-being.
Understanding Seasonal Depression
Seasonal depression, often linked to reduced exposure to natural sunlight during the shorter days of winter, can manifest as feelings of sadness, lethargy, and a lack of interest in activities. The holiday season, while joyous for many, can exacerbate these feelings due to factors such as increased stress, unrealistic expectations, and social pressures.
Tips to Beat the Holiday Blues
Embrace self-care as a non-negotiable part of your routine. Be sure to get adequate sleep, exercise, and eat a balanced diet. This is pivotal in maintaining mental and emotional well-being. Set aside time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Even playing with a pet can help ease anxiety and get a sense of calm for a few minutes.
Set Realistic Expectations:
The holidays often come with high expectations, both internally and externally. Understand that perfection is unattainable, and scaling back on commitments is okay. Set realistic goals for yourself, and don’t hesitate to ask for support when needed. Money can be a stress trigger as well. Never feel you have to go into credit card debt to try and impress people with gifts.
Exercise is a powerful tool to combat the winter blues. The goal should be at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Take a brisk walk, a yoga session, or a dance class; find an activity that resonates with you and lifts your spirits. Get a lunch buddy at work and walk together; not only will you get the steps in, but you will grow a personal bond as well.
Maximize Natural Light Exposure:
Open curtains, sit by windows and spend time outdoors during daylight hours. Exposure to natural light helps regulate your circadian rhythm and boosts mood. The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It repeats roughly every 24 hours. It is often called the “biological clock” and is influenced by external cues like light and darkness.
Loneliness can exacerbate seasonal depression, so make an effort to stay connected with loved ones. Attend social gatherings, reach out to friends and family, and foster meaningful connections. Share your feelings with a close friend or family member, and don’t be afraid to seek professional support if needed.
Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation:
Incorporate mindfulness and relaxation practices into your daily routine. Activities like meditation, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques can help reduce stress, help alleviate anxiety, and bring a sense of calm. Before you start your day, write in a gratitude journal, sit silently, and breathe for a few minutes.
Create Meaningful Traditions:
Instead of succumbing to holiday pressures, focus on creating meaningful traditions that align with your values. Whether volunteering, crafting, or spending quality time with loved ones, prioritize activities that bring genuine joy. Bringing joy to others is one of the best ways to feel it yourself.
Seasonal depression during the holidays is a common challenge. Still, with proactive steps and a focus on self-care, navigating this period with resilience and well-being is possible. As a health coach, I encourage you to prioritize your mental health, seek support when needed, and embrace the magic of the season in a way that aligns with your unique well-being journey.