Four Science-Backed Ways to Manage Depression During the Holidays

For many of us, the holidays are a cheerful time of the year when we get together to celebrate and spend time with family and friends. Even with the stress it often brings upon us, like financial pressure, gift shopping, travel, or preparing for a big meal, we tend to find some happiness when we're surrounded by the people we love.

But stress isn't the only thing we have to worry about. The holidays can be emotionally exhausting and a difficult time for those who have lost loved ones or who have been caught in the middle of family arguments. This can trigger feelings of depression which can be incredibly challenging to cope with. In some cases, this can escalate to thoughts of suicide or increase the risks associated with addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Feeling depressed during the holidays is a real but treatable concern. Here are four science-backed ways clinicians help their patients manage depression during this stressful time of year, and how you can use Total Brain yourself to stay focused on your mental health.

Learn to Stay Positive

Depression and feelings of sadness can encourage us to take up new unhealthy habits. It can also cause us to abandon healthy habits and slip back into unhealthy ones. If you've been successfully dieting all year, given up alcohol, or quit smoking, remind yourself of your success before giving up everything you worked so hard to achieve. Learning to stay positive plays an important role with this. Surround yourself with friendly faces, listen to upbeat music, and read encouraging words. Clinicians often recommend their patients try a Total Brain exercise like Word Smith to learn to seek out the positive while avoiding the negative. By training your mind to recognize these cues, you can create an "upward spiral" toward a more positive mindset which can help you bounce back from adversity while bolstering self-esteem and reducing cravings.

Remember to breathe

When your depressed feelings become overwhelming, find a quiet place and take a moment to breathe. Take your mind off the situation by focusing on inhaling and exhaling deep breaths with a Total Brain exercise like Resonant Breathing. Clinicians recommend this exercise because it helps reduce stress in-the-moment, and allows the patient to increase their Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Research shows that by slowing our breathing to six breaths per minute, we can create a symbiosis between our heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, referred to as cardiorespiratory coupling. This, in turn, triggers a relaxation response in the body and allows the patient to calm down, recenter themselves, and bounce back in the face of adversity.

Give meditation a try

Similar to breathing, practicing meditation can instill a calm, relaxed state of mind and bring focus back to yourself instead of the negative thoughts fueling your depressed feelings. Clinicians recommend that patients meditate to not only reduce stress that can lead to depression, but also to improve focus and productivity which can take the mind off negative thoughts and the cravings associated with unhealthy habits. Check out Contentment Meditation, an exercise designed to accept the moment and find tranquility.

Talk to someone

Self-care exercises through Total Brain can help minimize stress and anxiety while helping you learn to build focus and resilience. However, sometimes a professional may need to intervene. This is nothing to be ashamed of, and if you feel like you need further assistance, don't hesitate to find someone who can help. Left untreated, depression can lead to a number of other concerns like eating and drinking disorders, self-harm, isolation, insomnia, weight fluctuations, and more.

If you know of someone who is experiencing depression during the holidays, you can do your part to support them during this difficult time. One of the most beneficial ways to do this is to listen emphatically. You may not completely understand what they're going through, but you can respect their feelings and encourage them to keep pressing forward. Simply being a smiling face by their side can go a long way in reminding them that they are loved and cared about.

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