Reuters reports patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and back pain improve their mood by working out on a regular basis, according to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. Continue reading
Want to prevent or reduce depression? There are two things you should consider: (1) dramatically reduce your TV time, and (2) increase your physical activity. Continue reading
Yesterday, my last day in the medical office before Christmas, I saw three patients all suffering from holiday depression. One was a grandmother who had suffered the tragic loss of her first grandchild this summer. Two others were people who had lost dear ones over the last few months. It was a good reminder to me to keep an eye out this season for those around me to whom Christmas may not be a joy, but an emotional roller coaster.
Indeed, the holiday season can be a time full of joy, cheer, parties, and family gatherings. But for many people, it is a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past failures and anxiety about an uncertain future.
So, here’s some information on the holiday blues for you and yours from Mental Healthy America:
What Causes Holiday Blues?
Many factors can cause the “holiday blues”: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends. The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions and house guests also contribute to feelings of tension. People may also develop other stress responses such as headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping. Even more people experience post-holiday let down after January 1. This can result from disappointments during the preceding months compounded by the excess fatigue and stress.
Tips for Coping with Stress & Depression During the Holidays
- Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities.
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t put the entire focus on just one day (i.e., Christmas Day). Remember that it’s a season of holiday sentiment, and activities can be spread out to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
- Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
- Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
- Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some of your time to help others.
- Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping or making a snowperson with children.
- Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
- Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
- Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, or contact someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
- Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.
In past blogs I’ve told you about how exercise can help both prevent and treat depression. I also discuss this phenomena in my book, 10 Essentials of Happy, Healthy People: Becoming and staying highly healthy.
Now, along comes one of the largest studies ever published on the topic (of 40,000 Norwegians), which found that people who take regular exercise during their free time are less likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety, a study of 40,000 Norwegians has found.
However, physical activity which is part and parcel of the working day does NOT have the same effect. Writing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers said it was probably because there was not the same level of social interaction. Here are the details from the BBC:
The mental health charity Mind said that exercise and interaction aids our mental health. Higher levels of social interaction during leisure time were found to be part of the reason for the link.
Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London teamed up with academics from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the University of Bergen in Norway to conduct the study.
Participants were asked how often, and to what degree, they undertook physical activity in their leisure time and during the course of their work.
Researchers also measured participants’ depression and anxiety using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.
People who were not active in their leisure time were almost twice as likely to have symptoms of depression compared to the most active individuals, the study found.
But the intensity of the exercise did not seem to make any difference.
Lead researcher Dr Samuel Harvey, from the Institute of Psychiatry, said: “Our study shows that people who engage in regular leisure-time activity of any intensity are less likely to have symptoms of depression.
“We also found that the context in which activity takes place is vital and that the social benefits associated with exercise, like increased numbers of friends and social support, are more important in understanding how exercise may be linked to improved mental health than any biological markers of fitness.
“This may explain why leisure activity appears to have benefits not seen with physical activity undertaken as part of a working day.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said that lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise are known to have a positive impact on mental well-being.
“Exercise gives you a natural high and is a great way to boost your mood. However, another mental health benefit of physical activity is derived from social interaction.
“So going out with a running club, taking part in a team sport or working on a communal allotment is far better for your mental well-being than a physically demanding job.
“Mind has found that after just a short country walk 90% of people had increased self-esteem,” Mr Farmer said.