Not jolly this season?

Tis the season to be jolly, right?

By Nadine Munson

For many, Christmas is the toughest season of the year. Perhaps you can relate.

Contributing factors might be assumptions and expectations that we have to over spend and over work and be with people we might not want to be with. And look happy doing it

If you are depressed, the difficulty is magnified.

Some people are surprised to think they might be depressed. They aren’t sad all the time; they are still functioning – kind of — and think that “flat” feeling is tiredness because they aren’t sleeping well.

But the truth is, they may be depressed if they:

  • have trouble concentrating or making decisions,
  • have low energy levels
  • don’t really find pleasure even in the things they used to enjoy and/or aren’t interested in almost all activities nearly every day
  • sleep too much or too little
  • have appetite changes
  • feel sad, hopeless, guilty or worthless or even have thoughts of dying or suicide.

Here are a few tips for how to navigate the demands and expectations inherent in the season.

First, there is comfort in the familiarity of our daily rhythms and routines. To the extent possible, try to keep up with the activities that you participate in year round.

There will undoubtedly be some additional social expectations such as the work Christmas party or the family gathering that may seem unavoidable, but, it is OK to do them on your terms.

You don’t have to stay long or perhaps you can bring a friend that  supports or distracts you from old patterns that may be hurtful.

It is also OK to say no.

No may be easier with a plan. Is an out of town visit to a friends or a trip to a tropical beach possible? Perhaps, you could plan a smaller gathering with a friend or two of your own choosing.

There seems to be truth in the old adage that it is more blessed to give than to receive, so maybe you could volunteer at a local soup kitchen.

Avoid the Christmas movies that portray the idyllic family enjoying the perfect celebration. Many songs pull at our heart strings, as well, and can highlight the chasm between how you’re feeling and what others are portraying.

You don’t have pull the covers over your head and wait for the season to pass, but acknowledge your vulnerabilities and take control of the circumstances in a way that supports your overall good health.

Choose interactions that nurture you; it’s your holiday, too.

Get some aerobic exercise every day – even if it’s just a 30-minute walk. Aerobic exercise is most beneficial for depression. Thirty minutes to an hour a day for a minimum of 10 days helps reduce depression.

Not even antidepressants work that quickly – or have as few side effects.

If you don’t own a light therapy box, or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light, you might want to get one.

They simulate outside light with a lux of 10,000 but almost no UV. In an ideal world, you would be outside for your walk by 6 or 7 a.m. and get the natural light of the sun in your eyes and on your forehead that would help set your body clock and assist with adequate serotonin production.

Considering what was discussed earlier re Christmas music, try replacing it with classical music – especially baroque. If possible, listen to it as you are walking in the early morning light.

Classical music relieves stress, anxiety and depression if you pay attention to the music and reflect upon your life and how you want it to be different/better in the future. This benefit is realized whether or not you like the classical style.

There are simple dietary recommendations that may not be as easy to implement because so many people are emotional eaters and reach for comfort foods when they aren’t feeling top notch.

Conversely, some lose their appetites. Either way, they are failing to supply their bodies with the nutrients required for optimal mental function.

It is difficult to avoid  culinary delicacies of the season but recognizing that they affect your blood sugar levels, which affects your ability to perform well, will help you limit the over indulgence.

Shoot for getting a variety of whole, unprocessed food such as nuts (walnuts), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax), fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

If I were to make any supplement recommendations it would be for Omega 3s (walnuts, pecans, red bell pepper, avocado, blueberries, romaine lettuce, spinach, flax, chia and hemp are natural sources), the B vitamins  –  especially B12, B6, and Folate, D3 and probiotics.

Go easy on processed food, sugar, alcohol and caffeine, which can disrupt optimal brain function and, if you’re fighting depression, you’ll want to provide every opportunity for optimal function.

These and many more lifestyle interventions have been well documented in the scientific literature to be effective in recovering from anxiety and depression – especially in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

They are covered in detail in an eight-week course offered in the New Year at  the Kelowna Lifestyle Centre. For more information call 778.215.4698.

At any time, if it just gets to be too much, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Ideally, there would be a family member, friend, spiritual leader/teacher with whom you have a connection and would feel comfortable reaching out to.

If no one comes to mind, there are many kind people who are available through the Kelowna Crisis Line.

Their 24-hour number is 1-888-353-2273.

There is an international organization that has trained listeners, online counsellors and therapists available for free, anonymous and confidential online text chat that can be found at http://7cups.com.

Finally, the First United Church is having a “Blue Christmas” service on Sunday, Dec. 23 at 5 p.m. in Room 14, which is accessible from the parking lot via the hall.It is a comfortable and comforting place that doesn’t look for perfection just connection.

For more information on the “Blue Christmas” service call 250.762.3311.

Wishing you a happy holiday season may be a stretch, but I wish for you the strength to make the conscious decision as many times per day, per hour, per minute as needed to take the next step toward wholeness and healing.

You aren’t alone. There is hope. Life is worth the effort.

Nadine Munson is the director of Nedley Anxiety and Depression Recovery Program. Call 778.215.4698.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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