D Kevin McNeirHealth

Avoiding the Holiday Blues

“It’s the most wonderful time of year,” or at least that’s what the popular seasonal classic tune says. But for many people, the six weeks encompassing Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s aren’t so wonderful. In fact, the holidays can be a particularly emotional time for both the young and the old.

Traditionally, it’s supposed to be a time of celebrating togetherness, but that can actually put a spotlight on feelings of loneliness. In addition to feeling lonely, the holidays can be a time when we’re more likely to be thinking of loved ones who have died. So how can you combat those feelings before they begin? There’s no real cure or short answer as sadness goes along with being human.

But here are a few suggestions to better ensure a holiday of joy:

Start a New Tradition

Starting something new is a great way to avoid sad memories from sapping your good mood; since it’s a new thing, there aren’t any memories attached to it! Your new tradition can be as big or as small, and involve as many or as little people, as you’d like. If you’re hoping to have a laugh, look for a new game for the whole family to play. If you like cooking, you could find a new recipe to try each year with friends or family – spending all day in the kitchen together, sampling the food as you go, can be the best part of the holidays. Whatever the tradition is, have fun with it.

Know Your Limits

Everyone has felt pressure from their family for one thing or another. While we may know that our families mean well, sometimes it might not feel that way. When you’ve got parents expecting you in one place, and in-laws expecting you somewhere else, it’s easy to feel spread too thin. Knowing when to put your foot down could save your mental health. The next time you feel overwhelmed by holiday pressures, don’t be afraid to say when things are getting too out of hand for you.

Give Back

We’ve all heard how being generous toward others can brighten your own day too. So, to avoid experiencing a tough time this holiday season, sign up to volunteer somewhere: a soup kitchen, an animal shelter, or even offer to help a neighbor who may be living alone. It’s the act of being selfless that will improve your mood.

Go for a Walk

It’s so simple but being outside can a lot of good for your mental health. Walking at a brisker pace will force you to take deeper breaths. Deep breathing helps more oxygen get into your bloodstream, which is then carried to the brain. Having plenty of oxygen traveling to your brain can be a big help in regulating imbalances.

Take Time for Yourself

Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Just don’t stay there too long. Remind yourself of what you enjoyed during earlier months in the year and continue those things during the holidays.

Keep Your Alcohol Intake Level Low

Drinking too much alcohol is tantamount to pouring gasoline on a fire. Alcohol has a depressive effect on the nervous system, so if you’re “blue,” drinking too much alcohol will only increase your level of depression.

Get in Touch With Your Spirit

Sometimes we forget the reason for the season because of society’s push toward shopping and other forms of excessive materialism. Remember the history, meaning and significance of holiday celebrations. Rededicate yourself to spiritual pursuits: church attendance, church work, prayer life and other disciplines.

Remember, if depression has become overwhelming, seek medical advice. Contact a doctor, a mental health professional or a spiritual or religious adviser.

Celebrate the holidays by celebrating life — your life.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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