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Holiday Survival Guide

The holiday season can be difficult for several reasons, and people may experience challenges for a variety of individual and collective reasons but depression during the holidays is a reality.

In fact, depression during holiday seasons has its own acronym called SAD, or Seasonal Affect Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at specific times of the year, usually during the fall and winter months when there is less natural sunlight. It is sometimes referred to as "winter depression" or "winter blues." Seasonal Affect Disorder, or SAD, follows a seasonal pattern, with symptoms typically starting in the late fall or early winter and improving in the spring or summer. Symptoms of SAD are similar to those of major depressive disorder and may include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, low energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleep patterns (either oversleeping or insomnia), changes in appetite or weight, and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities. Reduced exposure to natural sunlight is believed to be a key factor in the development of SAD. Lack of sunlight affects the body's internal clock (circadian rhythm) and leads to disruptions in the production of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. These changes in melatonin and serotonin levels, neurotransmitters that play a role in mood regulation, are thought to contribute to the development of SAD.

The reasons for this phenomena vary widely and everyone handles them differently. We came up with a Top Ten list of making the Winter Blues less impactful on your ability to enjoy this time of year in spite of worldwide and interpersonal chaos.

1 Set Realistic Expectations

Social media and cultural portrayals often depict idealized versions of holiday celebrations, leading to comparisons that can make individuals feel inadequate or left out. There is often societal and cultural pressure to create perfect, joyous celebrations. High expectations, whether internal or external, can lead to stress and disappointment.

2 Prioritize Self-Care

Make self-care a priority during the holiday season. Ensure you get enough rest, eat healthily, and engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Taking care of your physical and mental well-being can help you better manage stress. Stick to your regular sleep, exercise, and eating routines as much as possible. Prioritize nutritious meals, regular physical activity, and adequate sleep to support your overall well-being. Set up a cozy and relaxing space at home. Whether it's a corner for reading, a calming playlist, or scented candles, create an environment that promotes relaxation. Block out specific times in your schedule for self-care activities. Treat this time as non-negotiable, just like any other important commitment.

3 Establish Boundaries

Learn to set boundaries to protect your time and energy. It's okay to say no to additional commitments that may overwhelm you. Communicate your limits to others and prioritize your well-being. If you said no already and experience additional pressure to engage in something you don’t want to do, remember that your own

4 Plan and Organize

Many individuals find themselves overcommitted during the holidays, trying to meet various social obligations and fulfill expectations. This can lead to increased stress and burnout. Plan ahead and organize your tasks. Create a to-do list or a schedule to help you stay on top of your responsibilities. Breaking down larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps can make them feel less daunting.

5 Focus on Meaningful Traditions that matter to YOU

Individuals from diverse cultural or religious backgrounds may not celebrate the same holidays or may experience the season in different ways. This can lead to feelings of exclusion or cultural disconnect. Identify and prioritize the holiday traditions that bring you and your loved ones joy. Focus on activities that have meaning rather than feeling pressured to engage in every holiday tradition. Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Whether it's reading, listening to music, taking a bath, or pursuing a hobby, prioritize activities that nourish your spirit.

6 Communicate Openly

Individuals going through major life changes, such as a divorce, job loss, or relocation, may find the holidays to be a challenging time to navigate these transitions. Communicate with family and friends about expectations and plans. Open and honest communication can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure everyone is on the same page.

7 Manage Financial Expectations

The holiday season typically involves increased spending on gifts, decorations, and festivities. Financial strain can be a significant source of stress during this time. Create a realistic budget for holiday expenses, including gifts, decorations, and events. Stick to your budget to avoid financial stress. Consider alternative gift-giving strategies, such as homemade gifts or setting spending limits with friends and family.

8 Acknowledge Complicated Family Dynamics

Family gatherings may bring together individuals with complex relationships or unresolved issues. This can create tension and discomfort during what is supposed to be a joyful time. Not everyone has a close family or a supportive social network. For some, the holidays can amplify feelings of loneliness and isolation. The holiday season can be particularly challenging for those who have experienced loss, whether it's the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship. Festive occasions may highlight the absence of someone special.

9 Reevaluate Priorities

Reflect on what truly matters to you during the holiday season. Consider whether certain activities or expectations align with your values and priorities. Let go of things that don't bring you joy or fulfillment. Don't hesitate to delegate responsibilities and share tasks with others. Whether it's meal preparation, decorating, or organizing events, involving others can lighten your load.

10 Learn to Say No

It's important to recognize your limits and be comfortable saying no to additional commitments or activities that may cause unnecessary stress. Be selective about where you invest your time and energy. Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your routine to stay present and grounded.

It's important to recognize that everyone's experience is unique, and the reasons for finding the holidays difficult can vary widely. Taking steps to manage expectations, practicing self-care, and seeking support when needed can help individuals cope with the challenges associated with the holiday season.

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