Thanksgiving has passed and the season of merriment is in full swing. But what do you do when it seems the whole world is wrapped in silver holiday sparkle and all you feel is blue?

It’s the “most wonderful time of the year” and people are busy spreading good cheer and holiday spirit right into the new year. But for those experiencing loneliness, extra stress, fatigue, a sense of loss, sadness or melancholy over past holidays, depression can cast a shadow on this season of joy.

There are a lot of seasonal reasons to feel this way. Less sunlight this time of year, changes in our diets and routines, an increase in social opportunities, alcohol at parties, financial strain, over-commercialization, stress of travel, unrealistic expectations, sentimental memories, and inability to be with friends or family are all factors that bring on the holiday blues.

If you are among the 69 percent of people who feel the stress and strain of the holidays, please be kind to yourself. You are far from alone and you are certainly not a scrooge. You don’t have to skip the holidays entirely – take these tips to get on top of the holiday blues and find some joy in your holiday season this year

1. Resist the Temptation to Hibernate

It can be so easy to slip into hibernation, with snowy days and dropping temps, distant family and friends, and the overwhelm of the season. Taking time for yourself during such a busy season is so important, but loneliness can set in when taking time for yourself turns into isolating yourself.

Resist the temptation, and spend time with caring and supportive people, especially when you feel emotionally fragile. You may not feel like setting one foot outside of your warm and cozy house, but trust me – you will feel better surrounded by the company of those who care about you, even when you don’t feel the holiday cheer.

If you’re feeling a little too “bah humbug” to hang around all that holiday happiness, then take a dose of that well-known anti-anxiety and antidepressant – exercise. Even a small amount, like parking as far as you can from the store (not that you have a choice this time of year!) is just enough movement to pick up your moods.

If you are missing a significant other or longing for company who can’t be with you, find new ways to occupy your time so you aren’t dwelling on your feelings of being alone. Find someone who may be feeling just like you, or make dates with yourself and keep them, even if it’s only for short trips to a local café or bookstore. Connecting with people, even if it’s only a smile or brief conversation, will lift your mood.

2. Shake Things Up and Try Something New

For some, the holiday season beams a spotlight on all the difficult changes in life. It’s been more than five years since my mother has sat at my holiday table, yet it feels just like yesterday. There are times during the holidays when those precious memories overwhelm me, and I feel like I would give anything to have her back with me for just one more celebration. The rest of my dear family is scattered across the country, making it difficult for us all to get together and increases that spotlight on her absence even more.

I learned the hard way that trying to recreate times past only leads to sadness. While it was painful growth, I needed to go through a season of letting go of my sentimental expectations of holidays being spent with all of my extended family, and create new traditions that include honoring the memory of loved ones lost.

As I decorate for the holidays, photos and mementos of my cherished loved ones take center stage, and when it’s time for the big holiday meals, I make a few of the dishes that were family favorites to feel connected with everyone once again. My new traditions include inviting friends who feel like family to be a part of everything from shopping for gifts to the big celebrations. I invite them to bring their own stories and traditions to the table as well, and it always makes for a festive and interesting time.

3. Keep It Simple

The temptation is strong to be the superhero that gets everything done on the mile-long “to do” list, shows up perfectly dressed to every holiday gathering, hosts the most magnificent parties, and gets along with even the most difficult family members, but it’s just not realistic. While cultural pressures seem overwhelming to make everything “perfect,” there simply is no such thing. Every family has its own complex dynamics and stressors to contend with, whether it’s financial, relational, or otherwise, the struggle is real!

You can’t please everyone any other time of the year, so don’t expect that of yourself during the holidays, either. Instead, don’t over-commit: pare down your “to do” list to manageable; limit your exposure to people who threaten to upset your “peace on earth and goodwill toward mankind”; and say a firm “no” to stressful gatherings, wish list gifts you can’t find or afford, and anything else that threatens your own well-being, whether physical, mental, emotional, or financial.

4. Recharge and Restore Your Energy with My Go-To Holiday Supplements

Fatigue is so common during the hustle and bustle of this joyous season, and what we think is depression could actually be depletion. While everything this time of year is made to look so festive and inviting, indulging in sugary treats depletes our magnesium stores, and alcohol itself is a depressant and mood killer, even when it looks lovely and tastes wonderful.

I enjoy a glass of good, organic wine on occasion, and I always take UNI KEY Health’s Y-C Cleanse to make sure it doesn’t lead to fatigue and candida yeast overgrowth. Stress and sugar both deplete magnesium, so I turn to UNI KEY Health’s Mag-Key to keep my levels optimal. If I know I’m overdoing it, I also take their Adrenal Formula to keep stress from getting the better of me. Finally, I take their Female Multiple to make sure I’m not missing any key nutrients. I know if I let my defenses down this time of year it opens me up to illness, which I simply don’t have time for!

5. Recognize When It’s More Than “Holiday Blues”

This is just not an easy time of year for many people. But we must be careful to not ignore the signs that something bigger may be going on, and try to pass it off as “just the holiday blues.” You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or another psychological or biological cause behind your moods that needs more attention. If your feelings persistent, or you know there is more to it than the holiday season, I strongly encourage you to seek help from a trusted healthcare professional.

It is with great sadness that there will be an empty chair at my table this year, in honor of my dear friend who took her life earlier this month by overdosing on prescription sleeping pills. She is the reason I’m writing this today, because I understand that there are times our pain in this world is simply too much to bear and it seems like nothing helps. If you are reading this with tears in your eyes, and your loneliness and despair are too much to bear, please reach out for help.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 and is available 24/7, even through the holidays. They also have online chat, social media, and text options available if talking isn’t an option.

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