Simple steps may reduce depression triggers during the holidays

SAN DIEGO – It is no secret that the holiday season can be a stressful time. With family gatherings, office parties, gift exchanges and other demands on time and attention, the final month of the year can be a trying time for even the most optimistic and enthusiastic people.

For individuals who suffer from or are at risk for depression though, the impact of holiday stresses and pressures can be much more severe than the momentary frustrations that almost everyone experiences.

For example, some of the common triggers for the onset of a depressive episode, such as feeling overwhelmed, experiencing a sense of isolation or deprivation and having personal conflicts, are also common holiday experiences.

Depressive disorders don’t take holidays. Stress management can be the key to maintaining mental health.

For individuals who are at risk for depression, consider these five simple tips that can help keep triggers at bay during the holiday season.

Stay organized. Considerable holiday stress is related to feeling overwhelmed or out of time. Planning ahead can help eliminate or ease some of this pressure.

Learn to say “no.” It is not necessary to accept every invitation that is offered. Taking time to relax and decompress during the holidays is more important than yet another party.

Set realistic expectations. There is no such thing as a “perfect holiday,” and trying to create one is an invitation to disappointment. On the other side of the coin, don’t allow dread to destroy enjoyment of the season.

Take care with food and exercise. Sugary and high-fat foods, which are staples during the holidays, can drain energy and increase the risk getting sick. Enjoy a sweet here and there, but do not abandon a healthy diet. Also, make sure to get some exercise and enough sleep.

Get help when needed. The holidays are definitely not the time to go it alone. From an extra set of hands in the kitchen to the therapeutic insights of a professional counselor, ask for help when it is needed.

Please note that these tips can help to reduce the risk of a depressive episode, but they are by no means a substitute for effective professional help. Depression is a serious illness that impacts more than 15 million adults and more than 2.5 million adolescents in the United States.

Contrary to a prevalent myth, suicide does not peak during the holiday season. However, depressed individuals are hardly immune from either depressive episodes or suicidal ideation during this time. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or thinking about suicide, get help now. The National Suicide Hotline, (800) 273-8255, is a free resource that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for anyone who is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Another excellent resource for suicide prevention and awareness is The Jason Foundation. The Jason Foundation is a nationally recognized leader in youth suicide prevention and awareness that has been providing programs and resources to help identify and assist young people who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide for over 20 years. The national network spans over 100 affiliate offices located in 30 states that provide programs and services for all 50 states. They are the nation’s largest and most comprehensive nonprofit whose focus is the awareness and prevention of youth suicide.

To find the local Jason Foundation office, visit www.jasonfoundation.com/about-us/locations.

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