Irinel Chiriac, M.D.
Psychiatric Centers of San Diego
I’m already dreading the holidays, because money is tight and my overbearing in-laws plan to visit us. How can I celebrate with all this stress?
Answer: Holidays are meant to be celebrated, but that doesn’t mean they will be perfect. People experience “holiday blues” for many reasons including financial concerns, missing a loved one because of death or deployment, or unresolved family conflicts.
Even with these real life issues, it is possible to enjoy the holidays and build meaningful memories for yourself and your family. A good starting point is to identify any unrealistic expectations you may have and then make a plan that works for your situation. Try these ideas to prevent the holiday blues this year:
• Set an affordable budget you can keep. Think creatively and offer gifts from the heart rather than the wallet.
• Establish new holiday traditions if you are grieving the death of a loved one or end of a marriage.
• Surround yourself with people who share a positive outlook.
• Take time for yourself: eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly and sleep well.
• Limit or avoid alcohol, which is a central nervous system depressant.
• Help others who are less fortunate. Visit seniors in nursing homes or join a group serving meals to homeless people.
With holiday blues, you should expect your anxious feelings to lift once the holidays have past. A more serious concern is major depressive disorder, which is diagnosed by using a structured diagnostic method developed by the National Institute of Mental Health. If you experience five or more recognized symptoms every day for two weeks, you should see your physician for assistance. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, weight gain or loss, irritability or persistent headaches or chronic pain that does not respond to treatment.