Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 28, 2021

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Depression key points

8 small "cures" for post-holiday depression

For many the holiday season can be more depression than delight. Overeating and drinking, big spending and forced jollity combined with memories of old hurts on these festive occasions means, for some, grey weather, both inside and out, that lingers well into the new year. While suicide rates are generally lower in December, a host of studies show that there is a marked rise in January.

Clearly, some of your patients struggle more than others at this time of year. Physicans and their families are not immune either. Fortunate is the doctor who has not had firsthand experience with depression or helped a colleague who has. Here are a few suggestions from the Canadian Mental Health Association and the CMA that may offer some relief.

Don’t be a stranger

Loneliness is a significant cause of post-holiday depression. Take a special interest in those in your practice who have recently lost someone or who live alone. The holidays are a time for friends and family, and those who don’t have people around with whom to share the season can feel it sharply. Make a point of asking those who you suspect might be lonely how their holiday went. Be sincere and probe a little, they may be reluctant to talk about it at first.

Watch out for simmering disputes

Family can help keep depression at bay, but it can also be the cause. Holidays often bring conflicts up that cannot be easily put back in the box. The immediate post-holiday period is not the optimum time to deal with these potentially explosive issues. Let the stress ease off a little before confronting these problems. Spring usually lifts the spirits.

Eat properly

Indulgence runs rampant over the holidays. Too much fat, sugar, salt and alcohol take their toll. Though it’s become such a cliché that it’s easy to discount, eating more fruit and vegetables is a simple way to combat dark moods. Encourage patients to make resolutions to eat better — and to keep them. Suggest, for example, that they reduce the number of meals they eat out and to cook more at home. The new year is also a good time to experiment with “new” diets from vegetarian to vegan to paleo to cutting out gluten and so help fight that insidious disease caused by “grain brain.”

Drink lots of water

Dehydration and depression are frequently linked. Without sufficient water we become cranky, lethargic and prone to headaches. Thirst can also masquerade as hunger. Though some recent research suggests that coffee, tea and sports drinks can act as substitutes, water remains the thirst quencher of choice in the literature.

Budget now

The holidays are expensive. We often take the restraints off our credit cards and spend, spend, spend. The money hangover can last for months. There’s virtue in setting a budget and keeping to it. Watching where the dollars go gives individuals a sense of control and can point the way out of the debt tunnel.

Say “no”

Individuals who are feeling overwhelmed often don’t know how to cut back on demands on their time and energy. Encourage such individuals to do less not more, to regroup and find time for themselves to do activities they enjoy. Physicians are particularly prone to saying “yes” all too often.

Exercise, what about it?

It’s usually at the top of most resolution lists, but few stick with it. For someone who is suffering from depression exercise is doubly important. Easier said than done. Keep it simple and doable. One way to do it: don’t spend money on equipment or a gym membership, instead simply walk more. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking a day can make a difference to your mood. Some who have trouble sleeping report benefits from a walk and a shower before they go to bed.

Take time out

Setting aside time to do nothing at all can be beneficial, as can listening to calming music, walks in nature, cloud or stargazing, deep breathing exercises, meditation and yoga. Individuals who stick with any of these long enough can more easily rise above their lethargy.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


Showing 2 comments

  1. On December 15, 2014, Lorne Walton said:
    Re: ...that insidious disease caused by “grain brain.” This is supposed to be medical advice? Please provide your peer-reviewed sources.
  2. On December 29, 2014, ian stuart said:
    Grain brain?

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