It may seem like the merriest time of the year, but the holidays can prime the pump of depression for many people. And it’s especially difficult once the Christmas tree comes down, the pressures of the workplace return, and the bills start coming in.

It’s a time when many people are especially susceptible to falling into poor eating and drinking habits, not getting enough sleep, and neglecting exercise. It can all be overwhelming, no matter who you are.

Gloria Berry, a licensed family therapist at Centerstone Kentucky, acknowledges that overspending on Christmas presents is a trigger for January blues, but she offers some good advice to help people cope with the pressures that come after the holidays.

Gloria Berry, a licensed family therapist at Centerstone Kentucky

“People may have budgeted, but didn’t stick to it, or they overextended themselves,” she said. “ ‘How am I going to pay my rent, pay for food for me and my family, pay for electricity and water and pay off these credit cards?’ I’ve heard many families that I’ve worked with talk about paying throughout the year to pay off Christmas. I try to encourage families to plan ahead and budget ahead — (think about) how much they want to spend so they can save for that throughout the year so they don’t get back in this cycle of feeling anxious and stressed after the holidays.”

But it’s not just money, Berry said. Her list of holiday depression boosters includes the lack of daylight, inability to get in a regular sleep pattern, and even pressures brought on by social media, saying that seeing so many people posting happy photos on Facebook can bring on sadness.

“Slow down, breathe, and be kind to yourself,” she suggests. “Don’t compare yourself to others who have nice cars and clothing, and eat out at nice restaurants and post it on Facebook. Be gentle with yourself and step back from social media if that’s bringing you down.”

Of course, there are positive steps Berry recommends to ward off sadness. One is to try to find ways to help other people.

“Remember to give time, talent or treasure,” she said. “Use your talents, or simply help a neighbor pull in the trash when the weather is bad, or bring in a neighbor’s mail.”

Another activity that Berry herself practices is to make a gratitude list. She writes or says aloud things she’s grateful for every day.

Berry added that both exercise and play are important for adults just as much as they are for children. In fact, she recommends that adults who can’t sleep skip that trip to the refrigerator and pull out a coloring book and crayons, instead, or maybe cuddle up with an uplifting or humorous book.

For many people, the feelings of hopelessness can be overwhelming, and Berry said that enduring those feelings alone can make things worse. She urges people who may be feeling sad or depressed to reach out to friends, take long walks, and try to have meaningful discussions.

Of course, therapy is another option for those with feelings of extreme sadness, who become isolated and irritable, or just can’t muster the energy to get off the couch.

“At Centerstone, we have excellent therapists who help with depression and anxiety, whether it’s being anxious about encounters with family members (or) someone who’s depressed because some have passed on and traditions will be different,” she said.

There are many resources available for people all over the region. Centerstone Kentucky operates a 24/7 Crisis Line, so that anyone having mental health issues can call and talk with someone, at  (502) 589-4313. For an appointment with a therapist, call (502) 589-1100.

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