The holiday season is a time of celebrations and giving. It’s festive, bright, and joyful, yet for some people, this season has also been known to bring on the blues. The days are shorter, time and money can be tight, and those without a strong support network may feel pangs of loneliness. However, you don’t have to succumb to the holiday blues. Today I’ll share my top 7 tips to keep your mood on the upswing, including how to incorporate adaptogenic herbs into your wellness routine, and how a community of like-minded individuals will help combat negative feelings during the holidays so that your holiday lights aren’t put out by any “Bah Humbug.”

Feeling Like Scrooge: Stress and Depression

Stress:

The holiday season is a great time of year to spend with and be thankful for friends and family members, however, there are often additional stressors such as financial pressure, social obligations, spending enough time with family, friends, and acquaintances (maybe even people you aren’t fond of), and the usual concerns like work and bills. 

While the holidays don’t last, the stress they cause may have an impact on the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which affects how a person processes information and manages their emotional response.1 Whether chronic or acute, stress can lead to depression in those who are more susceptible to major depressive disorder.2 People with anxiety disorders, or who experience panic attacks, should also practice extra self-care at this time of year.

Depression:

A sense of loss and depression have been known to increase during the holidays, especially in those already diagnosed with a mental illness.3 Although holiday depression differs from mental illness, short-term mental health disturbances can lead to clinical anxiety and depression.4 Individuals, families, and friends should know to watch out for symptoms of a worsening condition.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat

You may have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a seasonal pattern of recurrent major depressive episodes.5 SAD is categorized as a form of major depressive disorder that tends to strike in the fall and winter months. People with SAD should seek medical advice from their healthcare provider if it seems to be progressing into something more serious. 

If you are combatting a simple case of the holiday blues, then read on for the best tips for coping with these lows so that you can be a part of the holiday fun and enjoy social situations. 

7 Natural Ways to Banish the Blues

Instead of giving in to feelings of loneliness and turning to sedentary activities that will negatively impact your health, try these seven natural and healthy ways to lighten the holiday blues and avoid stressful situations.

7 Natural Ways to Banish the Blues - Infographic - Amy Myers MD

1. Prepare and Have a Plan

Keep yourself in a good mood by preparing for situations you can control, and try not to dwell on the ones you can’t.

You can avoid some of the pressure caused by family obligations by preparing what to say when you need some time alone to reset. For example, you can let them know that you love them, and you’re looking forward to spending time with them, however, you need to rest so that you can continue to be your best self. You can apply this kind of mental preparation to various situations and to help you avoid unpleasant confrontation.

Most importantly, be aware of anything that may put your mental health at risk. If you know that being alone makes you feel blue, seek the company of friends and family — now is the perfect time! If crowds give you anxiety, set a standard for how much time you spend in large groups so that you can provide yourself an ample amount of space to recharge.

2. Make Time For Yourself & Get Moving

If you feel emotionally drained, then take a deep breath and make time for yourself to give your body a break from constantly elevated stress hormones.

Exercise, stretching, and moving your body are great ways to get some much needed “you-time,” especially in the morning. Exercise early in the day boosts the body’s natural processes and prepares you for what’s ahead,6 and at least 15 minutes of high-intensity exercise or 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise can reduce risk of depression.7 Other ways to give yourself space to get into a positive mindset include meditation and yoga, which have been known to reduce symptoms of depression.8

If this gets you outside under some natural light, that’s all the better for your health! You can optimize vitamin D from getting out under the sun. Vitamin D works as a kind of light switch in your body, turning on or off genes and processes that your body needs to maintain health.

3. Get Plenty of Sleep

Have you ever been in a bad mood after a terrible night’s sleep? Lack of sleep upsets your circadian rhythm and impacts a part of your amygdala, the part of your brain responsible for your emotions.9 When you don’t get enough sleep, it can affect not only your mood but also how you treat the people around you.

To prevent getting snappy with a family member, or saying something you don’t mean, I recommend trying to promote healthy sleep patterns during the holidays, such as going to bed and rising at the same time each day, and turning off screens two hours before bed. Even a good old nap can support a healthy mood and get your brain back in balance.

4. Show Gratitude

Another way to lighten your mood is to put a smile on your face and appreciate all of the support you have — whether that’s from your family, a community of people who share your interests or your experiences, or even a pet who loves you unconditionally.

Your facial expression has an impact on how you feel because of how our brains interpret signals from neurotransmitters.10,11 Wearing a smile this season will actually help you appreciate this time of year. In addition, consciously being thankful for what is important to you can put you in a better mindset and help combat psychological distress.12,13

5. Eat & Drink Healthfully

You can certainly enjoy a delicious and healthy holiday meal wrapped up with the option to indulge in a sweet treat. However, most of the food you see during the holidays are full of toxic and inflammatory ingredients! These foods are usually full of unhealthy saturated fats and sugar, as well as calorically dense yet nutritionally deficient foods that can lead to depression.14 Unless you put the menu together yourself, you don’t get many options for a healthy holiday.

Furthermore, I don’t recommend using caffeinated drinks for energy. Caffeinated drinks increase cortisol production in the body,15 which increases levels of stress, while alcohol increases toxins in your bloodstream,16 and does some serious damage to your mood.

Avoid alcohol as much as possible. Drinking alcohol changes the chemistry of the brain and decreases levels of serotonin,17 which is the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood.18 Opt for mocktails instead.

Even if you take every precautionary measures, I recommend having a plan if you accidentally get “glutened” or stray from your dietary protocol. It’s best to prepare supplements to support you after a slip-up, such as Complete Enzymes, Coconut Charcoal, and probiotics, and try not to dwell on mistakes.

Additional stress can impact how your body recovers from toxic or inflammatory foods. You can also plan to avoid tempting trigger foods by having a festive holiday protein smoothie before social events, or offering to prepare your approved foods to share with everyone.

6. Support Your Adrenals

Holiday stress can impact your mood and make you feel less inclined to be a part of holiday activities. When you’re stressed, your hypothalamus (the part of your brain that recognizes stress) sends signals to your pituitary gland, in turn signaling your adrenals to produce and release stress hormones. Your immune system responds by producing inflammation. This kind of constant inflammation is not only a recipe for adrenal fatigue, it also leaves you with a weakened immune system and may put you on the path to autoimmunity.

Rather than allowing exhausted adrenals to impact emotions and attitude, I recommend supporting them with Adrenal Support. It includes a variety of the most effective and well-researched adaptogenic herbs, amino acids, and vitamins to help your adrenal glands handle everything coming their way.

7. Participate in Ways that Work for You

Finally — and this may be the most important way to keep yourself in a good mood all season long — find ways to enjoy the holidays that work for you. Buy a coffee for the person in line behind you. Consider volunteering to help those less fortunate including the hungry and the homeless by serving meals or providing small gifts of clothing and toiletries. Join a choir or caroling group that visits nursing homes and hospitals, or just volunteer to visit and chat. If you are good with crafts, consider making gifts for those in need.

Feeling blue during the holidays is not uncommon. Your mood can be affected by mental, emotional, and physical stress on top of social engagements, the food you eat, and your activity levels. Don’t get wrapped up in any low thoughts and remember that you can always find support, whether it involves changing your diet, sharing your thoughts with others in a safe space such as The Myers Way® Community, or supporting your mood and helping to balance your hormones with supplements including Adrenal Support.

Adrenal Support Bottle - Promo Image - Amy Myers MD

Article Sources

  1. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/prefrontal-cortex
  2. https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/stress-depression#1
  3. https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2014/Mental-health-and-the-holiday-blues
  4. https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2014/Mental-health-and-the-holiday-blues
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5138072/
  6. http://sciencenordic.com/exercise-morning-and-sleep-better-night
  7. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/more-evidence-that-exercise-can-boost-mood
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871291/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17956744
  10. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190412094728.htm
  11. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fbul0000194
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010965/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12585811
  14. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-brain-food/201504/recent-links-between-food-and-mood?collection=1073403
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2257922/
  16. https://www.umassmed.edu/news/news-archives/2014/05/single-episode-of-binge-drinking-adversely-affects-health/
  17. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/a/alcohol-and-mental-health
  18. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling