How to manage Christmas depression

How to manage Christmas depression

Christmas can be a stressful time of year and not everyone can cope with the expectation to stay merry. For some, it can an especially difficult period.

According to the charity Action on Depression, feelings of loneliness and stress - combined with the pressure to appear festive at all times - can really take its toll during the holidays.

Recognising the symptoms of depression at Christmas

The first step towards dealing with depression is recognising that you have a problem. There are many symptoms, although you may not experience them all.

Some examples of the typical signs you may be depressed at Christmas include:

  • Feeling inadequate and/or hopeless
  • Loss of energy and/or enthusiasm
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Feeling lonely, even when surrounded by people

Action on depression recommends that if symptoms persist for two weeks or more - or if you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide - then you should seek advice from your GP or a support group.

Should I watch what I eat at Christmas?

This time of year is traditionally a period over over-indulging - whether that be in food, alcohol, or both.

If you're aware that you are prone to feelings of depression at Christmas, then consider this before filling up - especially as far as alcohol and sugary snacks are concerned. The former in particular can be a powerful mood depressant.

That said, it doesn't mean you should swerve enjoying a drink completely - it's all about moderation.

In terms of what you should eat, try to consume lots of complex carbohydrates and protein. Turkey is a good source of tryptophan, which your body uses to create serotonin that can relieve depression. If you enjoy nibbling at bags of mixed nuts, this is also good, as Brazil nuts, walnuts and almonds are all fine examples of snacks that can be good for the brain.

How to take the pressure off at Christmas

If you think that part of your depression may be down to other people's expectations of you at Christmas, or the level of pressure you are exposed to, then consider how you can reduce this.

For example, if you are normally responsible for cooking Christmas dinner for everyone, then perhaps you should see if someone else wants to take on the role for this year.

If the idea of this makes you feel guilty, ask yourself if you would feel the same in getting them to take over because you had broken your arm. The principles behind needing a break because of your mental health should be exactly the same.

Christmas can be a stressful time for most people, so try to plan ahead as best you can. By starting your present shopping earlier this could relieve the pressure leading up to the big day.

Above all else, talk to people about your feelings. Nobody should have to deal with the problem alone - and whether it's opening up to friends and family or a charity helpline, there's always someone willing to listen.

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