Stay centered this holiday season: Tips to ease seasonal stress and depression |

Stay centered this holiday season: Tips to ease seasonal stress and depression

As Andy Williams sings in his holiday classic, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Food, family and friends seem to fill most of our moments.

However, the joys of the season are sometimes accompanied by myriad pressures which can make this time feel anything but wonderful.

For many, even typically enjoyable activities like holiday gatherings, children’s performances, baking, decorating, travel planning and gift wrapping can feel overwhelming.

In fact, a poll by the American Psychological Association found that nearly one quarter of Americans reported “extreme stress” during the holiday season, the majority of which was attributed to feelings of lack of time and/or lack of money.

Because it’s no secret that the effects of stress can be harmful to our health – it’s worthwhile to spend some extra time on yourself this time of year.

When left unchecked, stress can negatively impact heart health and blood pressure. It can also weaken our immune response and contribute to a host of health conditions including gastrointestinal problems, skin conditions, obesity, diabetes and impotence.

Here are some practical tips to help you stay in the groove this holiday season.

Slow down: If you’re moving a thousand miles a minute, take a few moments (or even days) to slow down and regroup. Remember that saying ‘no’ to an obligation might mean saying ‘yes’ to your health, your mood and those you love.

Accept how you feel: Whether you are feeling up or down, anxious or calm, stop to check in with yourself and make an effort to embrace those feelings. Sometimes, simply acknowledging a feeling is a step toward feeling better.

Accept “good enough”: Whether it’s a poorly wrapped present or a slightly over-baked loaf of banana bread, make the best out of small mistakes and remember that your good intentions are more than good enough!

Be mindful of food: Sugary treats, heavy meals, and alcohol might feel good in the moment, but will drain you of your energy in the long-run. Moderation is key, especially now, so load up on fruits and vegetables!

Plan basic self-care: No matter how busy you get, make sure that you continue to move your body, drink plenty of water, and get good sleep every day. You may want to schedule time for an hour in the gym, set a reminder to drink your water, and add small windows of quiet time to your calendar each day.

When it is depression

Stress from the holidays can also aggravate feelings of depression. Particularly for those who do not have a strong social network or who are grieving the recent loss of a loved one, the holidays are emotionally challenging.

If you experience mild seasonal depression, consider ways to connect with others.

Ask someone to visit for coffee or tea. If you are able, offer to volunteer to help others in your neighborhood or at a local service organization.

However, if your feelings are more intense, consider seeking the care of a professional, says Darryl Quinn, program manager for Nevada County Behavioral Health Department.

“If you have the feeling that you need help, listen to that feeling. There are many people in our community who would like to help and support you,” Quinn says.

He suggests the following:

— Speak with a therapist. Contact your health insurance company (the number is typically listed on insurance cards, or may be found online) to find a professional who is covered by your insurance.

— Seek immediate help. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, or do not have insurance and need help quickly, contact the Nevada County Behavioral Crisis Line at 530-265-5811.

— Access additional resources. Nevada County 2-1-1 can be used to connect with a variety of local resources and services (simply dial 211).

Throughout the holiday season and into the new year, may you feel merry and bright.

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