8 Ways to Avoid Depression This Holiday Season

The HealthCentral Editorial Team Apr 3rd, 2012 (updated Oct 8th, 2015)
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'Tis the Season...
'Tis the Season...

The holidays can be a wonderful time for many people, filled with good friends, time with family, and delicious holiday feasts. But it's also a potentially stressful time, triggering symptoms of depression and anxiety in many people. The good news? Experts say there are ways you can reduce your risk of depression and anxiety during the holiday season. In this slideshow, we look at eight of these ways.

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Have realistic expectations
Have realistic expectations

Many of the movies, magazines, and television shows that depict the holidays show them as perfect events. But holiday events rarely come off without a hitch, and expecting perfection from the holiday season will just set you up for disappointment. Keep your expectations realistic. This one simple thing will go a long way toward reducing your stress level and keeping depression due to perceived failures at bay.

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Understand that memories can add to your stress
Understand that memories can add to your stress

Remembering the holiday seasons from your younger days can be a great comfort and bring tremendous joy. For many, the holidays of childhood are filled with magic and the closeness of family and friends. But as we age, the holidays can bring other things too--financial stress, travel, scheduling issues, and grief over the loss of friends and family. Keep your memories close and cherish them, but try not to expect the present to match up perfectly to past.

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Avoid the mall
Avoid the mall

Malls can be wonderful places to window shop, but if you're one of the millions of people worried about finances this year, the mall can also be a trigger for anxiety and depression. The crowds alone--along with the parking!--are enough to stress many to the max. Try shopping at small stores or online. This will help you find bargains and also allow you to avoid the crowds and the mad dash to purchase expensive items.

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Be mindful of your schedule
Be mindful of your schedule

Many people and businesses entertain during this time of year, and it's easy to say "yes" to too many events. Doing this will add to your holiday stress and make it difficult to enjoy yourself at any of the gatherings you attend. Don't feel like you need to say "yes" to every invitation. Choose the gatherings and events you really want to go to, and concentrate your energy on those.

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Try a change of scenery
Try a change of scenery

If the holidays are stuck in a rut for you, try shaking things up and doing something you've never done before! If depression plagues you because of the holiday company, the cold weather, or the same old routine of the holiday season, try a change of scenery. Hit a warmer climate, eat your holiday meal out instead of making it at home, or try a movie in a theatre with friends instead of staying in.

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Let the unimportant things go
Let the unimportant things go

We all want the holidays to be fun, but it's easy to make a list of too many things to accomplish during this time of year. Every surface doesn't have to be covered with lights, the meal doesn't have to be something that would make Martha Stewart proud, and you don't need to purchase every new trinket that's advertised to make the holidays "great." Be kind to yourself and let the small, unimportant things fall by the wayside this year.

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If your expectations are low, raise them
If your expectations are low, raise them

Many people aim too high in their expectations for the holidays, but others may be tempted to set their expectations too low.Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, including yourself. There's no reason why this holiday season can't be the one that's different, a pleasure instead of a pain.

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Volunteer
Volunteer

If the holidays get you down because they're too hectic or too commercialized, try doing something that keeps your own personal "reason for the season" at the holidays' heart. Doing something that makes you feel good about yourself and instills a sense of gratitude is a great way to hold off holiday-related anxiety, depression, and stress.