Seasonal depression: how to cope

POLOKWANE – Although the festive season is not usually associated with stress and depression, there are people who experience these emotions during this period.

Review spoke to local clinical psychiatrist, Zelda Buitendag, about how to deal with negative feelings at such a happy time of the year.

“Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health. Being realistic, planning and seeking support can help you deal with your situation,” Buitendag says. She continues, stating the holidays present a dizzying array of demands such as parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining guests, and that can wear a person out physically and mentally.

He shared a few methods that could help you cope with the blues:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, understand that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. You cannot force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. Volunteering your time to help others can also lift your spirits.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes wrong.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Here are a few alternative gift giving ideas:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.
  1. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities.
  2. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.
  3. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Here are a few suggestions to help you stay on track regarding your health:
  • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.

  1. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Here are a few activities you can do to in your 15 minutes of zen and peace:
  • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
  • Listening to soothing music.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Reading a book.

  1. Seek professional help if you need it.

“When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past,” Buitendag concludes.

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