14 Steps To Obliterate Holiday Depression

This time of year can be joyous, but many people experience Holiday depression. It’s a bad place to be.  Here are 14 steps that can help.

End Holiday Depression

Come on, fella, it’ll be OK


FOR SOME of us it’s the best time of the year.  We gather together with family and friends, break bread, share gifts, tell stories and laugh heartily.

For others it’s the worst time of the year.  Perhaps there is no family, too few friends — or everyone’s simply too far away.

Then there’s the New Year coming, with all its pressure to review the past, all the things hoped for but unrealized.


I have some thoughts on the matter, this subject of depression, whether it occurs during a Holiday or any day. These 14 steps to obliterate Holiday depression may be useful for those of you who might be feeling a bit low. Or perhaps for someone you know who needs a “pick me up”.

Let’s begin with two the most unappealing aspects of depression — less life.

“Less life” means two things:

  • In the colloquial sense, less life means having less of a life, simply because there’s no joy in it when depressed.
  • In the literal sense, less life is… less life… depression can actually reduce lifespan.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn won a Nobel Prize for her research demonstrating that chronic stress depresses us and our life.  She studied long-term caretakers. Typically, such people need to take care of themselves, their children, spouse and parents. Even the most energetic, positive-thinking person will over time get worn down.  This chronic stress induces a steady state depression, and it can literally shorten life.

Whether it’s stress or depression, pervasively negative thoughts are quickly infused into emotions that kick off a panoply of biochemical reactions, one of which causes telomerase from keeping telomeres from prematurely shortening with each cell division.

Telomeres are “caps” at the end of chromosomes which help protect genes from the being degraded during cell division.  They’re often likened to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces that protect them from fraying.  Telomerase is an enzyme that nourishes telomeres, and this is what is negatively affected by chronic stress, which keeps cortisol — the “death hormone” — levels too high.

With each cell division, telomeres naturally shorten a bit, but under sustained stress too much cortisol is produced and hinders the cell’s ability to use telomerase to preserve telomere length. People under chronic stress can have shorter telomeres and less active immune systems.

Telomeres look like this:

Telomeres protect against chromosomal damage

Telomeres protect against chromosomal damage

Read Why Chronic Stress Is The Biggest Super Ager Of Them All

What to do?

First acknowledge that it’s not easy to pull yourself out of the depression rut.  If it were easy, you’d be on Cloud 9 rather than the ditch.

The key is to find the one easiest doable thing that can be the first step to a series of steps up the ladder and out of the ditch. Do you know what that first easiest doable thing is for most people?

A hug!

Close contact with another human being produces various feel-good chemicals in your body, such as dopamine, the “love hormone”.  When you feel good, the other steps on the ladder don’t seem so hard to climb.

But it could be that part of what’s depressing you is that there’s no one around to hug, and this becomes particularly salient during the Holidays.  If that’s the case, go down the list and find the one thing you can do, that first step.

Speaking of steps, lets list them.


The 14 Steps To Obliterate Holiday Depression

1. Get a hug.

Yes, it’s worth repeating.  If there’s no one around to hug, call someone who cares about you.

2. Implement a daily schedule.

Routine is important because it gives you something to consistently focus on, and if what you routinely do includes some tiny, positive habits, they can accumulate into something grand. (Read How To Make Tiny Habits Big.)

3. Take a shower.

Do this right after arising,  and alternate between hot and cold water to revitalize your body and stimulate your mind. The cold water may be a shock, but then you’ll discover that the biggest shock is how good you’ll feel afterwards.

4. Dress yourself.

Not in the afternoon, but in the morning, and dress as if you have something to do, somewhere to go, someone to meet, even if you don’t.

5. Listen to music.

Make it the kind that makes you feel good, invigorates you.  You can dial in what you need in the moment.  (Read how music helps health: Lost and Found Radio and Music’s Affect on Health.)

6. Take supplements.

Some supplements are very useful to ameliorate depression.

Krill Oil has a phospholipid form of omega-3 which is absorbed faster and more efficiently than the triglyceride form typically found in fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are reputed to help with stress, promote heart health and lubricate joints. (Read this on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and the London Cabbie study.)

SAM-e helps balance Dopamine & serotonin are neurotransmitters that control mood and pain. But that’s just for starters — SAM-e also helps support cartilage-producing cells, and produces glutathione for detoxification, while replenishing the liver’s own SAMe supply.

I’ve written about both these supplements here, and suggest you take look.

7. Smile in front of a mirror.

Yes, that sorrowful face may be embarrassing, but keep staring at it till something deep within you rises up and shouts “f_ck this!”.  Maybe after that, a smile will blossom.

8. Meditate.

It takes some practice — no one’s “good” at it immediately.  But it’s worth trying because meditation helps you change your reaction  holosync technologyto things.  As the saying goes, “You can’t change what happens to you, but you can change your reaction to it”.

One basic method to learn to meditate is simply to sit comfortably in a place where there won’t  be distractions for 15 minutes (to start), close your eyes and follow your breath.  “Follow your breath” means to stay focused on it, allowing the breath to come in and go out as it will.  Soon, just by focusing on it, the inhalation and exhalation will become longer and deeper.

When your mind drifts, gently bring it back.  If silently reciting some mantra, or affirmation helps, add that.  If focusing on an object in your mind’s eye helps, do that.  But first get used to following your breath.  Over time, you’ll realize that every stress point in your life is being handled with greater ease.

{Want an assist?  Listen to the soundtrack at the bottom of this post.}

Like many of these “steps”, meditation may seem unreachable when depressed. OK, then, how about standing up and hop around in a circle on one foot whilst chanting, “depression is for sissies”.  Didn’t work?  Try the other foot.  The point is, if mediation seems to serious and hard to do, get silly.

9. Read a biography.

Choose a biography about someone who arose from the ashes, someone perhaps with whom you can relate.  It’s very helpful to learn that people who have achieved some measure of greatness had to struggle through the muck and mire of life. Could be inspiring!

10. Walk with Rumi.

When you’re down, you need oxygen and inspiration, a potent combo. The walk will take care of the first, and the Sufi mystic poet, Rumi will provide the inspiration.  Whatever your view is of a higher power, ole Rumi will take you one step closer.  For more on this, read Relief from Depression with Rumi.

Dr. Weil anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid

Click to enlarge image

11. Eat Anti-inflammatory Foods.

If you’re feeling both depressed and are achy or have some chronic illness, it could be that your body is riddled with inflammation.  Functional medicine guru Chris Kresser wrote an insightful article about this called, Is Depression A Disease Or A Symptom Of Inflammation?

One of his insights:

Understanding the physical roots of depression can have a profound effect on people who are suffering from it. Although the stigma surrounding depression has decreased in recent years, many who are depressed still carry the burden of thinking that there’s something wrong with them, and the depression they experience is “their fault”. When my patients with depression learn that there’s an underlying physiological cause of their symptoms, they often feel a tremendous sense of relief and empowerment. What’s more, when we address this underlying cause, their mood improves dramatically and they quickly realize that the self-judgment and shame they felt about being depressed was misplaced and unwarranted.

Reduce your inflammation (and depression) by eating anti-inflammatory foods such as fish oil, colorful vegetables, fiber and nuts. Check out Dr. Andrew Weil’s “Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid” for more suggestions.

12. Make a “Gratitude List”.

What in the heck does someone depressed have to be grateful for?!

Reasonable question, the answer to which reveals the soundness of this step to reduce depression.  When depressed, the dominate thoughts are negative and self-annihilating. And yet, there’s probably not a person on the planet who doesn’t have at least four things for which to be grateful.  It could be food, water, a soft breeze, the beat of your heart.

Reflect on it, find it, and write it down. Every morning. And if you want to strengthen this step, tell someone what you’re grateful for… let your own ears hear it.

13. Alter your perception.

Recognize that some depression here and there is normal, so if that’s what you’re experiencing you need not over react to it.  People often feel depressed after child birth, when the kids move away, during menopause, during a career shift, when middle age first hits, during illness, when reading a long blog post, etc.  The onset of winter, with its cold and reduced light, can also ignite depression.

In one of Dr. Weil’s books, I remember his saying that you can improve your perception by shutting off the things that make your mind flutter; meaning things that distract you from being present, from being focused on one thing at a time. Spending too much time trying to multitask an lead to a feeling of not accomplishing anything, which undermines efforts to mitigate depression.

14. Exercise! 

Photo credit: http://www.radiancephysiofit.com.sg/radiance-workout-tips-use-the-buddy-system/

Photo credit: http://www.radiancephysiofit.com.sg/radiance-workout-tips-use-the-buddy-system/

This is the last step to obliterate holiday depression that I want to share, and may be the most effective. Exercise is a proven method to improve mild to moderate depression.

Whether you’re doing an aerobic or anaerobic exercise, it does a body, and a mind good.  One reason is that exercise decreases the stress hormones such as cortisol, and increases those “feel-good” endorphins, such as epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.

Grab a buddy, or give him/her permission to grab you, and go exercise.  Walk, jog, yoga, push-ups – just do it, and if you want to know why, read what the Mayo Clinic has to say about how exercise eases the symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Yes, it gets that dopamine and endorphins flowing – these feel-good chemicals can help mightily.

I have two rules for beginners:

1. Recruit a buddy to do it with you.  (No I’m not senile — I remember that I already said that, but it bears repeating, as this can be the difference between making this happen or not.)

2. Begin with an exercise routine that you’re willing to consistently do.

If you’re completely out of shape, walk, and do it quickly.  When this becomes comfortable, walk up hills.  If you can, begin jogging.  In between walking days, learn and do yoga or some strength-producing exercises, such as push-ups and squats.  Begin on your knees if you need to for the push-ups, and hold on to a chair for the squats.

It’s amazing how moving and breathing can completely change your state of mind.  Find an exercise you can and will do and then do it regularly.  And I say, ad nauseam — get a buddy to join you.

Need some exercise suggestions?  Begin here.


Your Takeaway

When depressed, the hardest thing to do is to do something that you know will help.  In fact, that may be one of the most discernible attributes of depression.  You know what to do, but you just can’t make yourself to it.

That’s why I leave you with just two things that might get you to run up the steps to conquer depression during the Holidays, or any time:

  1. Get help from another human being. Invite him/her into your life, even if briefly.
  2. With that person, select the “step” that would be easiest to do.  Then do another.  Etc.

I close this post with the admonition that these steps may be helpful to reduce mild to moderate depression, but not severe depression.  If you’re on a doctor-prescribed antidepressant, you will need to work with your doctor to wean yourself from the drug as you incorporate the suggestions here reported.

Happy Holidays.

Last Updated on December 5, 2014 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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