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Tis the season to be jolly…depressed, anxious, stressed?

It’s that time of year again, the holidays.

Christmas music started in November, stores have had holiday merchandise out since October. Television shows and commercials are littered with holiday themes about how wonderful this time of year is. And for some, it is. But it’s definitely not a wonderful time for everybody.

Tis the season to be…depressed, anxious, stressed?

Even those who do enjoy the holiday season are not immune to its stressors. The gift buying pressure, cooking/baking, social gatherings, decorating. Most people’s lives are too busy throughout the year, then you add a holiday to do list! 

I have really noticed an impact on my clients in recent weeks.

People are feeling depressed, anxious and stressed out. It is also no coincidence that people’s moods are dipping in the month of December, when colder weather sets in and shorter, darker days are upon us. So how do we get through this stressful time of year?

Self-care, self-care, self-care!

I am a huge proponent of the importance of self-care for our emotional, physical and mental health. It is impossible to get water from an empty well and the more depleted you feel, the more self-care you need. 

What constitutes self-care for different people can mean various things.

Some of the basics include: better/more sleep and rest, drinking enough water, maybe adding a Vitamin D supplement this time of year, if the darkness bothers you, look into a light box which will simulate light for your body, movement/exercise that you enjoy, reading a good book, listening to music, talking with a friend. If your to do list is overwhelming you, write it down and break it down into smaller, more manageable steps. Consider delegating and asking for help with your list too!  

Another popular relaxation tool I’m seeing advertised more recently is a weighted blanket. The heaviness of the blanket can provide a feeling of security and help to settle your central nervous system to get more restorative rest.

Another wonderful option is listening to a guided relaxation meditation, even just 10 minutes can drastically change your mood and stress level.

And probably most important of all, take slow, deep belly breaths. When we are feeling stressed our breath is shallow and short, which tells the body to go into flight or fight mode. Closing your eyes, relaxing your jaw, neck, shoulders and abdomen and inhaling through the nose, with the breath rising up from the diaphragm and exhale out all your stresses. Do this several times and you will be amazed at how much calmer you feel.

Whatever self-care coping mechanism(s) you choose to utilize, just know that the stress will pass and the holidays can be more enjoyable if you give yourself breaks now and then to take care of your own needs. Taking care of yourself should be looked at as a necessity, not a luxury, because it truly is. Put yourself on your to do list!

I wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season and new year!

Kathy Most
Therapist in Westfield, NJ
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