Depressed about the Holidays? Maybe You Have the Holiday Blues

Depressed about the Holidays? Maybe You Have the Holiday Blues

You can’t wait to see your family. You’ll return to the home you grew up in. You’ll eat well. You may have an extra glass of wine because you can sleep in. Sounds a bit like heaven. You’ve even purchased some special gifts for each family member. Nonetheless, you feel a sense of dread. You can’t put your finger on why. Perhaps you  have a case of the holiday blues.

What Are the Holiday Blues?

The holiday blues are any number of feelings such as anxiety, depression, stress, or apathy. Their roots may be buried in a variety of sources, some which you may not even be fully conscious of.

Being part of the holidays usually means you’ll be interacting with family and friends. And when you watch your friends and family interact, sometimes this observation creates an odd dynamic, which accentuates what has changed in everyone’s life and what has not. Indescribable emotions are created.

You think that you should be at the height of happiness, but you are not.

Causes of the Holiday Blues

Potential causes of the holiday blues are far ranging. Here are some of the more common ones.

Disruption in Sleep Patterns

One thing that tends to increase depression and anxiety is poor sleep. During the holidays, folks tend to stay up later, which leaves them feeling tired the next day.

Doing Too Much in a Day

Last minute shopping. Visiting both sides of the family. Leaving late and trying to make up time on the road. Frustration and panic can result.

That Extra Glass of Alcohol

Celebrations often come with alcohol consumption. Over consumption leaves you feeling lousy the entire next day.

Guilt from Overeating

That gigantic piece of cake you normally would stay away from seems easier to eat during the holiday. Guilt can play a role in the holiday blues.

Unrealistic Expectations About Our Family

We love our families, which often leads us to overlook some of their shortcomings. We are often reminded of those shortcomings during holiday get-togethers.

No “Me” Time 

There is so much to do, so many people to see, that we often forget to take a break, be by ourselves for a moment and just empty our thoughts.

Methods to Ease the Burden of the Holiday Blues

In the midst of the holiday season, it is easy to get caught up in emotions. However, a little preparation will help you  identify the onset of emotions. To prepare, try the following:

Find Similarities

Look for similarities between you and Uncle Otis. You may be surprised how delightful Otis is when he is discussing his goldfish. If you maintain grievances, you bottle up all types of negative thoughts.

Just Say No

Know your limits and your boundaries. Don’t participate in every single holiday activity. Prioritize them and attend the ones you ranked the highest.

Maintain Healthy Habits

Keep your sleep patterns intact. Say no to that extra wine and those cupcakes. Avoiding guilt is avoiding the stress guilt causes.

Take a Time Out

Restore inner calm by stepping away from the action for 10-15 minutes. This will reduce stress and refresh your mind.

Allow Yourself to Feel

There is nothing inherently wrong with feeling a bit down. You don’t need to fight “negative” emotions. Forcing feelings can backfire on you. There is no reason you “should” always feel happy and thankful, especially during high-stress holidays.

If the Sun Comes Out, You Go Out

Twenty minutes of sunlight does wonders for the blues. Combine exposure with a brisk walk and these activities will combat many causes for your holiday blues.

No Facebook

Remember that Facebook typically highlights the good in people’s lives. It’s easy to forget this when looking at someone’s New Year’s Eve pictures from Jamaica.

You can’t compete with these human highlight reels. If you need to connect with someone then call them. One phone call to a good friend beats photos of people you barely know living it up at a vacation resort that you can’t even afford.

You Are in Charge of Your Feelings

If you feel the holiday blues coming on, remember: How you react to your feelings is entirely within your control. Sure, there may be some negative feelings, but those will dissipate if you concentrate on what there is to be thankful for this holiday season.




Six Tips to Help You Achieve Work/Life Balance

Six Tips to Help You Achieve Work/Life Balance

You want to have it all. Who doesn’t? The difference with you is  you’re aiming to have it all, while others are just wishing. You have goals and you’re going to reach them. However lately, you and your family have noticed you’ve gone from having work/life balance to having work/life imbalance.

Today, more than ever, it’s easier to disrupt your once harmonious work/life balance. Cell phones, internet, online meetings, and any other number of technologies have blurred the boundary between work and home. The result? You accumulate work hours without even realizing it. You know what else you accumulate? Stress. And we’re becoming more and more aware of the devastating cost of stress on our lives.

What is Work/Life Balance?

There are so many definitions of work/life balance that seem to fall short of a proper explanation. For our purpose, we’ll define work/life balance as stated by worklifebalance.com.

“Work/life balance is meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in work, family, friends, and self.”

There are a couple of things to note in this definition. First, it includes more than a 50/50 balance between work and family. Second, it requires daily achievements. Achieving work/life balance is not a matter of simply reducing work hours, it requires mindful appreciation of all four elements every day.

Actionable Tips to Help You Achieve Balance

You can achieve balance at work by implementing these tips.

Set Realistic, Daily Goals

Research shows the more you control your workload, the less stress you experience. There is no greater control than setting goals and checking them off throughout the work day. The feeling of accomplishment is very rewarding.

Avoid Procrastination

Procrastination often creates negative emotions about a task which grows in your mind until you absolutely dread the thought of that task. If the task is too large, break it into realistic, attainable chunks. As you complete each task, reward yourself with a piece of candy or a five-minute break.

Communicate

If you find yourself in a stressful situation due to the amount or nature of work in front of you, inform your boss or co-workers. Many times they will be open to finding you help. No one needs to be a hero at the price of their health. If you do take your predicament to your boss, present him/her with solutions so you do not come across as complaining.

Take a Break

Taking a break often adds to your productivity. Breaks tend to clear your mind, and can rid your body of  stress.

Forgive Yourself

Are you perfect? Probably not. Therefore, there is no need to continually replay mistakes or your shortcomings. Allow yourself to be imperfect.

Be Present

When you are feeling overwhelmed, remember why you find your job satisfying. Sometimes a simple cognitive switch in the way you think about things can reduce stress.

You can achieve balance in life by implementing these tips.

Eat a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein enhances well-being and stamina.

Get Sleep

Lack of sleep increases stress. Exhaustion can generate burnout by creating irrational and hopeless thoughts. It also decreases your ability to keep perspective during stressful situations.

Set Aside Time to Relax

Just as you set aside time to eat lunch, you should set aside time each day to do something you enjoy. Even better, involve your partner or children in pleasurable activities.

Volunteer

Research points to  volunteering as being a contributor to a sense of work/life balance. Volunteering alone, or better yet with family and friends, can lower stress, increase your emotional and social well-being, and bolster feelings of community.

Tap into Your Support System

Increase the number of times you ask trusted friends and loved ones for help. They will appreciate the opportunity to help  someone they care for.

Life Moves Fast

In the midst of living, it can be very difficult to step back and take an honest, objective inventory of work/life balance. Too often, life steps in and requires an inventory without your assent, be it  high blood pressure, an unhappy family, discontent friends, or the like. Disregarding work/life balance is a choice and  not necessarily the smartest choice.




Reduce Your Risk of Developing Mental Illness

Reduce Your Risk of Developing Mental Illness

You can readily name ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, but can you name any ways to reduce the risk of mental illness?

Even though our understanding and acceptance of mental illness continues to grow, we tend to make little  effort to improve our own mental health. We regularly disregard emotional signs that alert us to something amiss.

Emotionally healthy people have the capability to handle life’s stresses, build relationships, and handle disappointments. Just as heart health takes work, so does emotional and mental health.

Six Ways To Reduce Your Risk of Mental Illness

Go Outside

If you don’t get outside enough, it can affect your mental health.

According to research, walking in nature for 90 minutes decreases activity in the part of the brain which is active when you think negative thoughts. Walking along a busy road for 90 minutes, did not decrease activity in this part of the brain. Nature is soothing and decreases stress. Cars speeding past you has the opposite effect.

Numerous studies have pointed to the health benefits of spending time outdoors, two which include:

  • A 2010 study found a boost in self-esteem after just five minutes in a green space.
  • A 2001 study found improved ADHD symptoms in children who spent time in green space.

Connect with Those Who Care for You

Having a group of supportive people to lean on and talk to improves mental health. We are naturally social animals, so we have a deep-seated emotional requirement for human relationships and connections to others.

Face-to-face interaction with friends and family calms the nervous system and reduces stress.

Embrace Yourself

Here is an obvious fact: Each one of us is different. It is much better for your mental health to embrace your differences and feel good about yourself. Be proud that you are unique.

Being true to yourself boosts your self-esteem. And having good self-esteem is vital when coping with life’s challenges.

If you need to change parts of yourself, do so, but don’t beat yourself up because of it.

Eat Well

Food can affect your mental health. To keep your brain healthy and working properly, it needs the right nutrients. A balanced diet (for your body and your brain) includes:

  • A plentiful selection of assorted fruit and vegetables
  • Dairy
  • Whole grains
  • Oily fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Water and more water

Do your best to limit alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks.

Exercise 

You knew exercise would be on this list. When you exercise, your body releases stress-relieving and mood-enhancing endorphins. These endorphins combat depression, stress, and anxiety.

You don’t need to run a marathon. Simply set a goal to get 30 minutes of daily exercise.  If you exercise outdoors, you benefit from green space and you absorb sunlight, which stimulates the production of vitamin D,  increasing your serotonin levels. This helps you sleep better and keeps your body functioning at an optimal level.

Talk to Yourself in a Positive Manner  

Research studies show that what you think of yourself can have an effect on how you feel about yourself. When we think of ourselves in a negative light, we also tend to view experiences with negativity.

Positive self-talk is one of the best ways to crowd out negative self-talk. Positive self-talk shapes our thinking just as much as negative self-talk does. Positivity reshapes our opinions of ourselves and our circumstances, which in turn enhances our mood and sense of well-being. Be positive and smile more.  It makes a world of difference.

When Should You Seek Help

If you’ve tried to improve your mental health without success, then you may want to seek professional help. Objective assessment from a mental health professional can diagnose a mental illness and provide a roadmap to greater mental health.

If you have any of the following behaviors, professional help may be beneficial:

  • Uncontrollable negativity or fear
  • Concentration problems
  • Feeling hopeless most of the time
  • Coping by using nicotine, food, drugs, or alcohol
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Inability to sleep