Published On: December 4, 2015|Categories: Clinician’s Corner|

The holidays can be a difficult time for just about anyone, but for those battling depression, the holidays have the potential to do real damage. This time of year is loaded with triggers that can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, relapses, suicidal thoughts and actions, or other life-threatening, self-destructive behavior. For teenagers, the stress of family holiday gatherings added to the already high pressure of young adult life can be particularly painful.

Although facing the holidays is inevitable, making poor choices doesn’t have to be. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression this holiday season, try taking advantage of these four inexpensive ways to avoid that nasty slump.

1. Help Others

Helping those in need is uplifting for all parties involved. When you spend spare time as a volunteer for a nonprofit organization, you gain a sense of satisfaction knowing that you’ve provided comfort to someone in need of it. Google your local nonprofit organizations or take a look at this list for ideas:

  • Animal shelters
  • Churches
  • Soup kitchens
  • Women’s crisis centers

You don’t need to volunteer at a shelter to feel the satisfaction of making a difference. Ask your neighbors if they need help straightening up for family visits. Get together with friends to wrap presents. Donate to a charity. Opportunities to help others are everywhere.

2. Give Homemade Gifts

If finances have you stressed, consider taking a more cost-effective route to gift-giving this holiday season. Surprise your loved ones with homemade gifts! Hand make your holiday cards with scrapbooking materials. You can even make one-of-a-kind festive ornaments, gifts in a jar, custom smartphone cases, year-round home decor, and more. And who doesn’t appreciate the warmth of homemade baked goods?

For more unique and uplifting DIY ideas, check out these 101 handmade holiday gifts.

3. Start a New Tradition

Some old fashioned holiday traditions may trigger unwanted memories for you or your loved one. To counterbalance or replace these traditions, try starting something new or reinstating lost childhood traditions like advent calendars and baking cookies with the family.

Explore ideas for new holiday traditions.

4. Go Outside

One of the best ways to brighten your day and ease that holiday stress is to get some sun. Going for a walk helps to lower your anxiety levels and can even help improve your sleeping patterns. Spending half an hour each day outside, weather permitting, can help manage your mood and give your body the vitamins it attains from the sun. Outside time isn’t restricted to walking. Here are a few other ideas to get you out of the house and into the sun this winter:

  • Build a snowman. It’s a fun team-building activity. Find the perfect twigs. Get creative with facial expressions and accessories. Utilize your assets—pinecones, buttons, lumps of coal, holly leaves and berries, spare mittens and scarfs, etc. Make a whole family of snowmen!
  • Go ice skating. The sensation of gliding along on the ice is unlike any other. Just don’t keep anything breakable in your pockets, especially if you’re a beginner. Worried about falling? Just like in life, that’s always a risk. We’re constantly falling only to pick ourselves back up again. Just brush the ice off your knees, laugh away the embarrassment, and keep on skating. Some rinks even offer group discounts.

And don’t forget to chase away the chill with a mug of hot cocoa!

Make positive memories this holiday season by replacing negative thoughts and destructive habits with a pleasant attitude and productive activities. Not only can these ideas make lasting, happy memories, they have the added benefit of helping you kiss the cold-weather blues good-bye.

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