The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 8, 2013

Don’t get depressed this Christmas

Holidays may be a hassle, but there are ways to be stress-free

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The holidays are supposed to be happy times, but often, they aren’t. People become stressed and depressed during the holidays and don’t enjoy it like they should.

Some local mental health counselors suggested some practices individuals can do to alleviate the depressions caused by the holiday.



The holiday season is supposed to be a happy one. But often the things we try to do are overwhelming, or life’s occurrences are not happy ones. But there are things that can be done to make the holidays more joyous.

Carrie Bravinder, a licensed professional counselor, said the Christmas and New Year holidays are hectic times of the year. She said people often spend time with people they don’t wish to be around.

“During the holidays, people have a lot of time with families and families are not always perfect. You are interactive with them more often than usual during the holidays,” Bravinder said.

Another reason for depression is if an individuals has recently lost a loved one, or has gone through a divorce. Holidays can be difficult for people who are grieving. “There are so many factors that remind them of that loss,” she said.

We live in a social media age. Sometimes, people see posts that involve others peoples’ families doing happy things. Bravinder said people often think their own lives are not as good as those people’s.

“We see so much about others there and use it as a reference point to what life looks like. That can also be tricky,” she said.

Bravinder suggested people stay away from risk factors.

“Some social support is a protective factor,” she said. “Another big piece is being aware of the kinds of thoughts that are going through your head. You can’t control your feelings, but you can control your thoughts.” She said to not dwell on places you can’t go and things you can’t do. Maintaining good thoughts about what an individual is grateful for is a good way to stay away from depression, she said.

Good self care also is important. Individuals should make sure they get adequate rest, eat properly and exercise. Those are things people often let go during the holidays because they are so busy. However, Bravinder said it is necessary to maintain positive mental health. “When your system is overloaded, make sure to do these things more often. Whatever it is, reading a good book, listening to music, whatever recharges your batteries, you must keep doing it this time of year,” she said.

To avoid holiday stress, Bravinder suggested keeping expectations realistic. “We’re not Martha Stewart and we can’t pull thing off the way we want to,” Bravinder said. Often, people exhaust themselves to the point they cannot enjoy the holiday. Focus on what is important and manage expectations, she said.

Bravinder said there also are sites like Pinterest that show what other people are doing and sometimes people feel they are not making Christmas if they aren’t doing that.

“It would be nice if we could unplug a little bit,” she said. “It’s normal for all of us to have down days, but if it lasts a couple of weeks and you can’t pull out of it, go talk to somebody and let them give you suggestions. You can get help — there are resources out there,” Bravinder said.

Becky Kroeker, owner of ATS Counseling Services, provides a few suggestions to help people during the holidays:

1. Keep expectations to a minimum. When one has high expectations, it leaves lots of room for disappointment. She said television and movies set an unrealistic perfection.

2. Shake things up. If you are alone this year, start a new tradition of celebrating with friends or doing something different.

3. Give back to others. Kroeker said there is always someone worse off than we are. “This can help put the blessings into perspective,” she said. “There are lot’s of opportunities in Enid — Loaves and Fishes, food kitchens, churches and schools.”

4. Figure out what you can control and what you can’t. You may not be able to control everyone’s attitude, but you can control how you react.

5. Celebrate your memory of those you are missing. Start new traditions to celebrate them and keep their memory alive. Share stories about a loved one or toast them before dinner.

6. Take time for you. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone without distractions will help you refuel and handle the holidays, Kroeker said. “Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring your inner calm,” she said.

7. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed and not able to cope. Some things to look for include physical complaints, being unable to sleep, irritability and hopelessness, and a lack of energy. If those feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.