Joy to the World.

‘Tis the season to be merry.  December rolls around and a sense of joy and splendour fills the air.  There are Christmas and holiday parties each weekend.  People take the time to spend with friends that they have not seen in a while.  Magnificently decorated houses highlight the spirit of festiveness and unabashed excess.  Most people will connect with family from near and far.  Jolly old Saint Nick makes his appearance.  It’s A Wonderful Life.

But not for everyone.

Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety during the months of November and December may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment There are several reasons why you may develop depression during the holidays: Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression, especially during the holidays.  Some people may have a small social circle or a lack opportunities for socialization. People who have feelings of disconnectedness often avoid social interactions at holiday time. Unfortunately, withdrawing often makes the feelings of loneliness and symptoms of depression worse.  Holidays are stressful for people for whom seeing their families for long hours is difficult due to complicated relationships. Others want to be with their families and friends but cannot, perhaps due to work assignments, etc. Holidays are a time when people remember family and other important life events, so it can be tough for people who have lost loved ones (The Dana Foundation).

Some people may be keenly aware of the loss of a loved one during the holiday season.  Loved ones may have died or aren’t able to be nearby, so a person is alone and grieving. Disputes can arise that may be suppressed during the rest of the year because people aren’t seeing one another or don’t have the same expectations as they might have around the holidays. Transitions–all of the normal and abnormal kinds of changes in one’s life, such as children leaving home, moving–these things can make it more difficult to see loved ones or experience the same interactions (The Dana Foundation).

The Mayo Clinic has listed a few tips to prevent holiday stress and depression:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings.If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out.If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic.The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences.Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget.Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.
  1. Plan ahead.Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  2. Learn to say no.Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  3. Don’t abandon healthy habits.Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  1. Take a breather.Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Some options may include:

  • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
  • Listening to soothing music.
  • Getting a massage.
  • Reading a book.
  1. 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.

At Aspire Health & Performance we see people from all walks of and stages of life, and due to our personal relationships with our clients, we often here about some of the issues listed above.  This December we have decided to step up and raise awareness on this very important topic.  The Canadian Mental Health Association Kelowna, in partnership with the Mental Health Department of Interior Health Kelowna is hosting a Christmas Celebration December 13, 2017 for those in our community who need their help.  This Celebration may be the only time that some of the attendees will be able to celebrate the holidays.  Aspire Health & Performance has committed to donating to this cause.  In house we have a donation jar set up; I will MATCH all of the donations that we receive.  If you’d like to learn more about this program or donate online, please visit https://cmhakb.z2systems.com/np/clients/cmhakb/campaign.jsp?campaign=63&

We at Aspire Health & Performance are wishing a safe, happy and healthy holiday season for EVERYONE.  Please consider doing your part to make this a reality.

Cheers,

Shane Pizzey  MKin, CSCS, CEP