Mental Health Professor’s Tips to Beat Holiday Blues

*Today’s blog was written by Junnelle Hogen. It is a re-post of an article she wrote for the Register-Guard on December 13, 2015.

Amid the ever-present Christmas revelry and excess, many people feel blue.

But a Northwest Christian University associate professor says she’s developed tips to help people navigate the winter6holiday season without becoming too depressed.

Marilyn Montgomery said many people may struggle with heightened anxiety, stress and loneliness before and after Christmas.

“It’s common for people to go up and down,” Montgomery said. “It varies widely, especially for people who have lost someone over the holidays.”

From her experience counseling and teaching at the Eugene university’s clinical mental health counseling program, Montgomery compiled her top five tips for maintaining mental health throughout the season:

Give yourself the same advice you would give your best friend. Accept your feelings. It is OK to feel sad or anxious during the holiday season. But do something different. Go for a short walk, go for a drive to look at Christmas lights, go out for coffee. Change your scenery.

Take a vacation from using social media, or limit yourself to 30 minutes a day. Remember: Everyone uses social media to put up their best facade, which can lead you to have unrealistic expectations about your own life.

Stay informed, but do not dwell on negative news… Negative news can make us feel helpless, so find one good thing you can do to change those feelings, such as volunteering for an hour or making a donation to a charity or church. Change feelings of helplessness by doing something good for someone.

Help someone else who might struggle during the holidays. Send a friend or colleague a friendly email, letter or text thanking them for what they do or letting them know that you are thinking of them. Expressing gratitude can be a powerful antidote against the holiday blues.

Hunt for zest in life. Celebrate the little things. Whether it is the smell of freshly baked bread, a warm bed, hot water or a child’s excitement, be present with people and your surroundings.

decisionsMontgomery said she has seen an uptick in the last few years of people citing social media as a cause of depression.

“On social media many people only show their best days,” Montgomery said. “Pictures of food, family and friends people post throughout the holiday season can really exacerbate the problem.”

Cut out time on Facebook, but spend more time reaching out to others, Montgomery suggests.

She said one person she knew decided to face holiday depression head-on by sendinggrateful1 a text of gratitude each day for 12 days as a “12 Days of Christmas” gratitude-a-thon.

“She got great feedback,” Montgomery said. “Some people told her they had been going through a rough patch of their own when they heard from her.”

Follow Junnelle on Twitter @JunnelleH . Email junnelle.hogen@registerguard.com 

From me, Dena:

May this Bible verse encourage you through the rest of this holiday season.

“Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always (Psalm 105:4).”

Dear God, use something in this blog to help a hurting parent today. You know how hard it is on us when our child is struggling any time of the year, but especially during the holidays. Comfort and encourage through these words today. 

In the name of the Messiah, who is Christ, the Lord.

Amen.

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