The holidays are here, and we are all looking forward to a “normal” season after two years of pandemic. Holidays remind us of spending time with family, enjoying good food and being merry. But that isn’t always the case for everyone. 

This time of year, nearly 10% of Americans report seasonal affective disorder and many more experience tiredness, lack of motivation and generally feeling down. If not addressed, this can lead to clinical depression. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce the risk of holiday blues: 

Limit Alcohol. We know it’s easy to “just have a few drinks,” but alcohol will intensify negative feelings and leave you feeling physically ill. Limit yourself to only one to two drinks a day and only in social settings.

Savor sleep. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is essential to staying emotionally and physically sound. It may get more challenging if you travel to different time zones during holidays. If you have trouble sleeping, try using either valerian root extract, melatonin, aromatherapy, lavender or essential oils in recommended doses. 

Enjoy exercise. Exercise can be a chore, especially with the sun setting earlier, but do something fun and just get your body moving. Go for a run, ride your bike or take a walk in the sunshine to get your vitamin D. 

Eat healthfully. Eat balanced meals, including proteins, and limit sugars. Many holiday meals like turkey have tryptophan that synthesize serotonin and helps with sleep and mood. Try to avoid holiday sweets by planning ahead in social situations.

Find support. For some of us, holidays mean being alone, but they don’t have to. Ask your work or school friends about their holiday events, and it is likely you may get an invitation. It is important to surround yourself positive company during holidays. 

Make new traditions. Regardless of what makes you feel down, try something new. Activities like volunteering for community programs to serve the underprivileged bring a sense of gratitude and self-reflection. These experiences create positive memories that you will want to repeat every holiday season. 

Practice self-care. It is always a great idea to start self-care practices, such as meditation or yoga. It is relatively easy to get started in your own space, and while it may take some getting used to, these activities may help you long-term. 

Acceptance. The process of acceptance allows us to embrace and accept the present without the burden of the past and stress of the future. Acceptance relieves us of the pressure to stay in control. 

Connect with your therapist. For many people, holidays bring memories of their loved ones or past trauma. It is important that you stay connected or start with a therapist. 

It can be difficult to navigate how you are feeling and that’s okay. Try some of these strategies and if needed, reach out and get help; you are not alone. 

Manish Sheth is a psychiatrist affiliated with Sokya Health, a group of mental health and well care clinicians serving the Coachella Valley. He is also a member of Desert Doctors and can be reached at (866) 65.SOKYA or www.sokyahealth.com.

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