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15 ways to fight seasonal depression
In this edition of LIFEadvice Coach Kim shares some great tips for beating the winter blues. - photo by Kim Giles

I do not have the holiday spirit and I am actually so depressed I wish I could skip the whole thing. I dread the family gatherings and resent the fact I feel obligated to spend money on things we dont need. I wish I could feel differently, but honestly Im Scrooge at this point. Any advice on how to shake off these feelings?


Holiday depression can be caused by a number of factors, including fears about not being good enough (that are triggered by family parties) or sharp feelings of loneliness caused by divorce, separation or death of a loved one. You could feel down because of unrealistic expectations about how your holiday celebrations should look or you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder where the darker days with less sunlight affect your mood.

If you find yourself sleeping more than usual, overeating, feeling anxious or moody, having low energy, losing interest in activities you usually enjoy, or if you cant focus or think clearly, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

According to WedMD, about 11 million Americans suffer from SAD, a sensitivity to the shorter days and reduced sunlight, which disrupts your circadian rhythm or body clock. The lack of sun exposure causes your brain to work overtime trying to produce melatonin.

If you feel sad in the winter and suspect you might have SAD, you should talk to your doctor, get more Vitamin D, maximize sun exposure and possibly even take medication. Most doctors recommend getting 30 minutes of direct sunlight first thing in the morning, and sunlight through a window doesnt count. You may need a sunbox or some trips to the tanning booths if it's too cold to be outside.

If you have experienced loss, a change at work or are struggling financially you may want to talk to a therapist or coach who can help you process your emotions in a healthy way. They can help you create a healthy mindset for surviving those family parties too. I wrote an article with tips for difficult family parties a few weeks ago, and make sure you get the Holiday Mindset Worksheet.

I also highly recommend the new book "The Depression Miracle" by Greg Thredgold. It is packed with great ideas for beating depression and feeling better about life.

If you just hate the holidays and resent the obligation to spend money, then you need to consciously choose a more positive mindset. We are all in the habit of letting our subconscious minds determine how we feel. When you live unconsciously, you are on autopilot, letting your past experiences and thoughts determine your current mood.

Don't do this.

You have the power to consciously choose your mindset in any moment, but most of us have not learned how to harness that power and control our feelings. We also dont know how to process feelings in a healthy way. There is a great e-book on my website on processing emotions, which would help you with this. It gives you a procedure to follow when you feel down and guides you through choosing something better.

Whatever you are feeling, it is showing up for a reason. You may need to sit with the emotion and let it play out a little before you can figure out what its here to teach you. Life is a classroom, and every experience serves your education in some way. Every experience can make you wiser, more compassionate, stronger or more loving, but you must get conscious about the emotions to use them this way.

Here are some other ways you can choose happiness this holiday season:

  1. Let go of the past. Stop trying to make this year like your past holidays. It doesnt have to be the same to be great. Open your heart to creating different memories and having different types of holiday experiences. Let go of the past traditions and make some brand new ones.
  2. Plan or participate in social gatherings even if you arent in the mood. Once youre there, focus on making other people feel valued and cared about. Ask lots of questions and listen to them. This is one of the most powerful ways to make people feel valued. See how many people you can make feel this way. When you make others feel loved, you will feel fantastic.
  3. Engage in service projects and get the focus off you. Reaching out to others makes you feel wonderful about yourself because you are, in fact, being the highest, best you.
  4. Stay within your financial means this Christmas. Additional debt will hang over you and rob the fun from your season. Create a budget and then think of inexpensive ways to show people you care. Sometimes a heartfelt letter is worth more than anything you could buy.
  5. Spend time with positive people. Dont hang out with complainers. Misery loves company, but it doesnt have to be yours.
  6. Focus on gratitude. Gratitude is the most powerful positive emotion there is. Start a gratitude journal and write in it daily. Appreciate the small things. Even on your worst day you have it better than most people on the planet.
  7. Take care of yourself. Take time to do things that bring you joy or relaxation. You are not selfish when you choose to do things for yourself; you are being a well-balanced wise person. When you take care of you, you have more to give.
  8. Dont overbook yourself. You need to pace yourself and make sure you schedule time to relax. Take the time to actually plan your week and spread those To Dos out.
  9. Plan something special to look forward to after the holidays. Having something to look forward to and work toward makes it easier to get through the rough days.
  10. Dont distract yourself or stuff emotions. Use the Emotions e-book to help you process whatever you feel. Work through the feelings instead of trying to dismiss them.
  11. Dont use alcohol to deal with emotions. Self-medicating will make you feel worse, not better. It is also a depressive and is not the right cure for someone who is already down.
  12. If you have suicidal thoughts or feelings, tell someone. You can always call the Lifeline if you need someone to talk to, 800-273-8255. There are people who care about you!
  13. Have realistic expectations. Your holiday isnt going to look like a Rockwell painting, and it doesnt have to look perfect to be perfect. Lower your standards and choose to see the good in whatever you get. There is always some positive created from even the worst experiences.
  14. You may want to ask Santa for some life coaching or counseling this year. Its amazing what a little professional help can do for your mindset. There is no better gift than some help to feel better about life.
  15. Last of all, smile. The best holiday decoration is to be wreathed in smiles. Try to be some warmth and kindness everywhere you go.
You can do this.