Tips to reduce the risk of depression during the holidays

By on December 13, 2010

CHICAGO—The Illinois Department of Human Services’ (IDHS) Division of Mental Health (DMH) urges Illinois residents to take extra time this holiday season to tend to their mental health.

This time of year is often thought of as a time of merriment and glee. However, the season can be accompanied by significant fatigue, stress, worry, anxiety, loneliness and even depression. People who have suffered the loss of loved ones, especially during the previous year, experience increased sadness during the holidays.

“As holiday preparations proceed, it is important to remember to include time in our daily schedules to ward off these emotional challenges and allow a happy, healthy and joyous holiday season,” said Lorrie Jones, Ph.D., Director of the IDHS Division of Mental Health. “Mental health problems can affect anyone and it only takes one person to help support someone else who may feel overwhelmed due to the holiday pressure. Even for those without acute or medically diagnosed mental illness, there is a risk of depression and anxiety if people do not care for themselves.”

IDHS recommends these tips to remember for the holiday season:

1. Remember to take care of yourself physically
Proper sleep and nutrition are key stress busters. Lack of sleep will make you tired, irritable and more vulnerable to emotional ups and downs.

Those who indulge in over eating and over drinking put themselves at risk. Alcohol consumption interferes with sleep and causes or increases feelings of depression.

2. Be realistic
Give yourself realistic limits about what you can do. Only commit to the number of parties or activities you can actually enjoy attending. Running from event to event doesn’t turn out to be much fun and creates unnecessary stress and anxiety.

3. Stay within your financial comfort zone
Perhaps one of the greatest risk factors for holiday depression has to do with financial excess. While it is great to want to get a gift for every person who has been important to you over the year, can you really afford to buy everyone you want everything you want? Overspending not only causes stress during the holiday season, but when it is all over, people experience resentment and worry over the subsequent months as they stress over how to fill in the budget gap that was created.

4. Do something that makes you feel good and helps others
Nothing takes us out of a funk faster than helping someone else. It feels good to the doer and the receiver. Volunteer at your favorite charity or serve at a soup kitchen.

5. Do not be afraid to ask for help
If you are in crisis now or if you or someone you are concerned about is in a crisis state and at risk of harm to yourself, others, or property, or at risk of psychiatric hospitalization, you may exercise any of the following three options: Call 911 (Police and fire department personnel are trained responders to situations involving mental health issues), go to the Emergency room at a local area hospital or contact the nearest provider of crisis psychiatric services.

For more information on resources and actions that you can take, see the DHS Suicide Prevention information at www.dhs.state.il.us.

For nonemergency mental health services, use the DHS Office Locator and search for Mental Health to find the nearest Community Mental Health Center.