It is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, the holiday season can be a particularly difficult time for those struggling with anxiety or depression. In fact, our internal data shows that searches for “therapy near me” or “therapy in San Francisco” are often highest during the holidays. To help people that are struggling during this time of the year we’ve listed three ways to help manage the holiday blues.
At its core, Opposite Action is simple: Do the opposite of what depression or anxiety “tells” you to do.
For example, if you are feeling depressed about the holidays, you are more likely to lay around, watch TV, eat junk food, stay up late, not reach out to others, etc… In this case, you would be “listening” to your depression by engaging in these depressive behaviors. Why is this a problem? Doing what depression “tells” you to do only makes it worse.
By implementing Opposite Action, you would intentionally be more proactive with the day instead of partaking in sedentary behaviors. For example, you would schedule one activity into your day that you may not want to do, but know is beneficial such as exercising for 10 minutes, talking to a friend, or making yourself dinner. A key point here is you would force yourself to do these activities even though you do not want to. Why? Because you are more likely to feel at least somewhat better to accomplish one small, productive task than if you did nothing all day.
The goal of this skill is not to make your depression or anxiety go away immediately, but to compare your baseline to how you would feel if you did not do these proactive behaviors.
Focusing on Healthy Habits
Sleep is one of the most overlooked healthy habits that can contribute to managing your stress or depression. You can consistently achieve better sleep by waking up at the same time every day, avoiding screens an hour before bed, and keeping the room temperature cool.
Exercise is another healthy habit that plays a significant role in managing stress and depression. There are many measurable benefits to daily exercise. One benefit that our Good Therapy SF clients find interesting is that over time, regular exercise can help decrease the size of the amygdala (associated with anxiety) in the brain.
Limiting alcohol can also help with controlling stress or depression issues. Why? Chemically, alcohol is a depressant for the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). If someone is already feeling depressed, adding a chemical downer is only going to worsen the issue.
Avoid All or Nothing Thinking
All or Nothing Thinking is a cognitive distortion that is most common with depression. The distortion occurs when thoughts about ourselves, others, or our future skew overly negative and lack the nuances of any moment. Words like “always” and “never” are good indicators that someone is in an All or Nothing state of mind.
While difficult, it is possible to catch all or nothing thinking in the moment or just after it occurs. After catching it, try to take a curious approach to yourself (instead of being critical) and ask questions about what you were experiencing in the moment and what other perspectives could be applied to the situation. Making this a regular practice can help increase the grey area thinking that makes us feel less depressed.
A Final Word
If you find yourself experiencing the holiday blues, anxiety, or other mental health issues please reach out to Good Therapy SF. We are a team of psychologists based in San Francisco that provides in-person and video therapy for our clients.