Commentary by Kirsten Kaisner-Duncan
While the holiday season should be an enjoyable time, it can be a mixed bag of emotions for many people. Stress about additional family and personal obligations, financial concerns and a general feeling of “not being able to get it all done,” can take a toll. Good nutrition, exercise and sleep often take a backseat during the holidays as well, affecting both physical health and emotional well-being. As a result, some people experience the “holiday blues.”
It’s important to understand that short-term holiday blues should not be confused with clinical depression or with seasonal affective disorder. Holiday blues, characterized by added stress and uneasiness associated with holidays, are temporary, while symptoms of clinical depression are persistent and may be treated with medication. SAD, like clinical depression, is a diagnosed condition linked to fewer hours of sunlight during the winter. People diagnosed with SAD have symptoms of depression not only during the holiday season, but throughout the fall and winter. If you are concerned you may be clinically depressed or suffer from SAD, see your primary care doctor right away for evaluation.
For a case of the holiday blues, getting through the month of December can be easier with these strategies:
● Make an effort to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. This includes eating right, finding time for exercise and getting enough sleep. You’ll feel better overall if you’re well rested and taking good care of yourself.
● Take advantage of free or low-cost holiday activities. Look for ways you and your family can enjoy the season without putting a strain on your budget.
● Establish realistic goals and expectations. Consider what’s reasonable and commit to holiday activities that really matter.
● Don’t be afraid to say no. Make a list of priorities, and decline non-essential invitations and requests so that you won’t be overextended.
● Find time for yourself. Whether it’s enjoying a cup of tea by the fire or taking a walk on the treadmill at the gym, make time to de-stress and unwind.
Wishing you a happy, and less stressful, holiday season!
Kirsten Kaisner-Duncan, MD, specializes in internal medicine. She is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Internal Medicine, 1650 W. Oak St., Suite 104, Zionsville. She may be reached by calling 873-8910.