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According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression during the holidays is recognizable when the following are true most of the time… seriously, read this:

Feeling depressed (e.g. sad, empty)…  Diminished interest or pleasure in most activities

A significant change of weight in a short time (gained or lost)

Change in sleep (too much or too little)…  Change in level of energy exerted (overly restless or lethargic)… Fatigue… Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt

Diminished ability to think or concentrate…  Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal thinking (especially planning)

I know what you may be thinking:  with hopefully the exception of that last one, I am describing any employee with high-stress job, or the average hyper-busy house mom with little kids especially around the holidays!

Stressful interactions with family and social events can be a lot for anyone to deal with.  If someone has any predisposition for melancholy or anxiety, the system can get overwhelmed.  Really, it generally isn’t the holidays that are the problem, but they can be the proverbial straw.  Less sun, busier schedules, financial stress can get us.  Whether diagnosable depression or just holiday blues, there are some things we can do to experience a “fuller” life!

First, though, if there is any question whether you are experiencing clinical depression, it is vital to speak to a counselor and a medical doctor.  Depression is a serious disease, but the symptoms can be greatly mitigated by medical help and counseling.  So, is there anything else the we can do when we face the negative feelings?

What to do about holiday depression

By the way, even if you don’t deal with depression, if you know how to help yourself, you will be better at helping others in the same ways.  In addition to medical advice, check out these four non-medical ways to fight depression (as well as just the blues!):

  • Search for fun – get out and play, do things you enjoy, etc.  This is a tough, though.  What does the depressed person enjoy, if you ask them? Of course, “nothing.”  That’s what depression is!  Better to think about what you used to enjoy before.  Then, make yourself schedule time to do them.  If you can’t think of anything, I have two for you:  one, find a swing set and climb on. two, buy a box of crayons (think 50+ colors) and start coloring.  Draw what you used to when you were a kid: a house, rainbows, trees, rocket ships bombing the moon (or was that just me?).  Finger painting, molding clay and mud puddles are good ones too – anything that requires you to throw away what you are wearing is good!
  • Work – do something productive with your hands, garden, build something, etc.  It needs to feel meaningful and like you have accomplished something.
  • Exercise – walk, run, swim, whatever.  Consistent exercise is one of the best ways to stave off depression, and it will help your sleep patterns.  Get out and breathe.
  • Religious activity – pray, sing, sit still, read, get involved in Church!  Isolation is dangerous – join in with a community of faith.  Get alone, or in a group, with God and talk – laying down all your burdens.  Grab a Bible and check out Philippians 4:6-9 for a reminder of how prayer is a great solution for anxiety.

Obviously, these are great habits for life regardless of depression. Therefore, develop good habits about these above and avoid bad habits like isolating yourself and rumination.

Too much isolation is a sure path to holiday depression.  Also avoid “rumination.”  Rumination is the word for animals chewing their cud; we may not do that with food, but we do chew, swallow and regurgitate our thoughts.  When we do, our thoughts tend to grow negative.

It is not uncommon for people to feel stressed, anxious, numb, or even depressed as this time of the year approaches… but honestly, a couple of good decisions… get out, work, play, worship… can create a better chance for focusing on the Good News… faith, and of course, family and friends, during this season – which is what living well is really all about!