Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Avoid the 'blues' of the holiday season

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By NATHAN MILLER

Center Director, Cumberland Mental Health Lebanon-Mt. Juliet

Scents from the kitchen during the holiday season often stir memories of how mom added an extra touch of butter to her Christmas cookies or how dad would slip-in from work early with a bundle of colorfully wrapped packages, sprint to a nearby closet and hide them thinking no one had noticed.

So many memories have been filed from days long gone by and for many these memories, while good on their surface, invoke emotions that may consequentially result in sadness and linger into a stage of holiday depression.

While the holiday season is celebrated as a time of joy and good tidings, it can also be a period for depression. Knowing how to deal with the stress and activities of the season can be important to keeping emotions intact and avoiding the pitfalls associated with depression.

There are some preventive measures that should be considered to help defend against holiday depression.

First, it's okay to remember the past, the good times, and old traditions but don't try to recreate these times or happenings. We must recognize that times change. Things cannot always be as they once were. Devise ways to make new traditions, new ways to celebrate Christmas and new activities with friends and family.

Second, avoid the stress of the season. Plan a budget for gift giving so that personal financial coffers are not depleted. Pace yourself appropriately when scheduling holiday shopping, parties and other activities so that you are not trying to do more than you physically and emotionally can handle. And perhaps, as important as any of the suggestions listed, find time for yourself. Take a nap. Read a book in a quiet place. Explore a new hobby like water coloring, candle making, cooking or playing the piano. But do something for yourself that gives you peace and joy.

Third, don't over indulge, everything in moderation. Avoid adding weight that will need to come off after the first of the year, and remember alcohol, when abused, becomes an agent of depression itself. Exercise can be very good. Find or make the time to walk, jog or visit a nearby gym.

And finally, do something that makes you feel good. Help others. Take extra clothes from your closet to a local church or community help center. Hand a five dollar bill to a stranger who looks like they need a boost. Say "have a nice holiday" to someone you pass on the sidewalk. Make a contribution to help feed the homeless. Buy toys for underprivileged children. Or just visit an elderly person who may not have anyone with whom to share the spirit of the season.

Indeed it is a wonderful time of year, but it can also be troubling. Keep the season in perspective. Spend time with friends and family or maybe adopt a pet for a little extra company at home.

For more information about depression and the symptoms of depression, contact Cumberland Mental Health Center a division of: Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System. www.vbhcs.org or 1-877-567-6051.

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Christmas, column, Cumberland Mental Health, depression, holidays, mental health, Nathan Miller, opinion
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