Depression at Christmas - how to cope

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'Tis the season to be jolly, but for some, Christmas is anything but merry. In fact, whether you are prone to depression, are struggling to cope with a break-up or bereavement, or are under pressure financially, it can be the toughest time of year. Whatever your particular situation, here are a few tips on how to get through the season.

Think of yourself
For those who are busy with Xmas preparations and hectic family lifestyles, it's important to find time for yourself. Stress can easily build up at this time of year, and taking time out for something you personally enjoy can make all the difference. Simple things such as half an hour with a book, a soak in the bath, or a walk in the park can help you to keep your sanity and those stress levels to a minimum, so don't let them fall by the wayside. If necessary, mark them in your diary or calendar. A good night's sleep can also help to stave off feelings of depression, so make sure you're getting enough shuteye.

Go with the flow
Another common trigger during the festive season is feeling under pressure to make everything perfect, but let's face it, nobody's perfect. In fact, trying to be the ultimate host, parent, and spouse will probably leave you feeling inadequate. Try to go with the flow a little more - if things go wrong, try to laugh about them, and if you're struggling to cope with all the chores, cooking, baking, shopping and the rest of it, ask for help. A little support from family members or even close friends goes a long way.

Get outdoors
We all know that exercise is a great way to relieve stress and get those feel-good hormones pumping, and while the weather might not inspire you to get outdoors, it's important for your mental health. You don't have to go for a five mile run - just a walk in the great outdoors can help to improve your mood, and give you a much-needed bit of daylight exposure.

Avoid bingeing
Many people who suffer from depression find comfort in food or alcohol, and in Christmas there's the perfect excuse to overindulge. But in the long run, it'll only make you feel worse, so try to think about how much you're eating or drinking. If you're with others, try to rein in your drinking by alternating alcohol with soft drinks, and consider preparing some healthy go-to meals to stop you loading up on the typically unhealthy fare on offer during the festive season.

Do what's important
It's easy to get lost in the Christmas hype these days, but when all is said and done, the gifts, decorations and parties aren't necessarily what's important. Overspending and financial worries are a major cause of depression at Christmas, particularly once all the gifts have been opened, so find out what you can really afford and stick to the budget. Similarly, remember you don't have to say yes to every party, drinks do and gathering, which can add to the stress, particularly if you're already busy. Don't be afraid to say no, and focus on the things and people that are really important to you.

Reach out
Loneliness is another big problem at Christmas, and if you're on your own, reaching out to others will help you to cope. While it can be tricky if you're on your own when others are with their families, why not suggest a get-together, for a drink or a cup of tea, on a day when they're not so busy. Alternatively, keep your eyes peeled for church of community events that will enable you to socialise over the Christmas period without feeling like a burden. Focusing on others is also well known to help alleviate feelings of depression, so why not help out at a shelter or Christmas lunch for the elderly? And if you fear you will be unable to cope during the season, don't be afraid to open up to friends or family, or even visit your doctor, who may be able to prescribe medication to help or refer you to a support group to help you through.

Do you struggle with depression at Christmas? What advice would you give to others in the same situation? Leave your comments below...
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