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Ah yes, the holidays are upon us once again, and with them the Holiday Blues. Not everyone is in festive spirits, especially those suffering from depression. Although the holidays are a time of joy for many, they can also trigger symptoms of anxiety and depression to different degrees. Comparing the holiday blues to a depressive disorder is like comparing a cold to pneumonia, Major depression can destroy joy for living and make it impossible to focus on work and responsibilities. Individuals may experience hopelessness and depressive symptoms such as sadness and tearfulness throughout the day. Thoughts of death or suicide may enter their minds. Depression is the world’s most common mental ailment, affecting approximately 25 percent of adults at some point in their lives. Stress-related events such as the holidays may trigger half of all depressive episodes. There are various forms of anxiety. About 8 million adults in the United States suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder, which is an excessive or unrealistic apprehension that causes physical symptoms and last for six months or longer.

Since the holidays may be a period where people experience increased depression or anxiety symptoms, it is important to recognize the signs of major depression. If during the holidays you experience many of the below symptoms to such severity that they interfere with your normal relationships, it is important to seek help from your primary care physician:

  • feeling depressed, sad and discouraged
  • loss of interest in once-pleasurable and enjoyable activities
  • eating more or less than usual, or gaining or losing weight
  • having trouble sleeping, or sleeping more than usual
  • feeling slow or restless
  • lack of energy
  • feeling hopeless, helpless, or inadequate
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions
  • persistent thoughts of death or suicide
  • withdrawal from others and lack of interest in sex
  • various physical symptoms.

Being depressed can make you feel helpless. You’re not. Along with therapy and sometimes medication, there’s a lot you can do on your own to fight back. Changing your behavior — your physical activity, lifestyle, and even your way of thinking — are all natural depression treatments.

At this season of giving, it is important to give attention to your own health by getting plenty of sleep, eating nutritiously, and staying physically active. Go out for a short walk and breathe some fresh air. Here are a few tips that may help:

  1. Eat healthy. Watch what you eat since depression can tend to make you overeat. Although there is no magic diet for depression, foods with  omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and tuna) and folic acid (like avocado and spinach) may help.
  2. Check with your doctor about adding vitamins and supplements. Supplements and other natural treatments to support your mood and help combat the negative effects of stress can be extra helpful during the holidays. For example, vitamin D and essential fatty acid deficiencies can cause depression and are easily remedied with supplementation. Adrenal dysfunction is also a common cause of depression and can be remedied with natural treatments.
  3. Get in a routine. Depression can strip structure from your life. Set a gentle daily schedule can help get on track. Set small daily goals that you know you can succeed at.
  4. Exercise. Exercise can boost the endorphins, those feel-good chemicals in the brain. Just walking a few times a week can help.
  5. Take on some responsibilities. You may want to pull back from life but don’t. Try to stay involved. Consider volunteer work.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.