For The Sake Of Your Brain: Fight Holiday Depression

December 17, 2009 at 4:10 pm 1 comment

Sad Christmas: Image from IStockPhoto.com Ok, I’m setting down the wrapping paper, bows and ornaments for a minute, and addressing a problem for many people (and especially seniors) this time of year.

During the holidays, depression rates rise significantly, and depression is a major drain on cognitive function.  The more blue you feel, the less effective your brain is… and if a seasonal funk becomes longer term, it has serious implications for the health of your brain.  Even short term depression can be responsible for problems with memory, concentration, focus and decision making. Long term depression is associated with an actual reduction in brain size, with implications of increased risks for dementia and Alzheimer’s. symptoms.

So what can you do about it?

Be Physically Active: Go for a walk, use a balance ball, attend a water therapy class.  Physical activity is one of the simplest and most effective means of warding off depression, and it’s good for your brain, too! .

Watch Your Diet: All of those sugary sweets that make the rounds this time of year are tempting, but they can also cause spikes in your blood sugar… spikes that further affect your mood and energy levels and can cause cognitive issues on their own.

Be Around Others: This can be a lonely time, especially for seniors whose families may be far away.  So make an active effort to be around others – attend community and church events, volunteer, offer to keep a neighbor’s pet while they’re away, invite friends to help trim the tree or the mantle or just share a cup of eggnog.

Get Enough Sleep: Extra demands on your time, or changes to your social schedule may cost you some sleep…. work in an extra nap if you can, and if you have a busy day, don’t feel bad about resting the next day.

Limit Your Nostalgia Time: It’s easy to dwell on memories during the Holidays – that’s part of the point of the little rituals, after all.  But make sure you don’t get lost in the past, dwelling on old hurts, grief or loss.  Instead, focus on the here and now, and the good things that are present.

Put Things In Perspective: Things really, really don’t need to be perfect, or even impressive. Your family and friends really will understand if  you don’t bake those cookies, don’t put up lights, or can’t send Christmas cards.  It’s more important to keep your heart and mind in the right place, than to try and do everything else “right”.

Get Extra Sunlight: In the Northern Hemisphere (which includes the US, Europe, and most readers of this blog) we get less sunlight during this season – and lower exposure to sunlight means lower levels of Vitamin D and a higher risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder..  a type of depression linked to lower levels of sunlight.   So try and spend extra time outdoors (with arms uncovered if its not too cold!) or consider one of the high intensity light boxes used to treat SAD.   A bit of extra Vitamin D might be a good idea, too – check with your doctor about the amounts.

Keep An Eye On Your Symptoms: If you feel you might be drifting into depression, it might be worth a trip to the doctor, who can assess whether you may need medication, if you might have an underlying condition, or if something as simple as St John’s Wort might help lift your spirits.  If Spring. Coming Soon To A Season Near You! photo by hirekatsu on Stock.Xcngecaught early, a simple lifestyle change may help lift your spirits before depression becomes a serious problem.  Look for symptoms like insomnia, headaches, lack of energy, loss of appetite, interest in things you ordinarily enjoy – they’re as common as the more typical feelings of  sadness we think of as depression.

In summary, try to keep the 7 keys of brain fitness balanced in your life, even during this hectic time of the year.

And if you do feel a bit down during the Holidays, try not to be too hard on yourself about it.  The season will pass, spring and sunshine will bounce back, and so, most likely, will your mood and mental function!

Entry filed under: 7 keys. Tags: , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Curtis Maybin  |  January 2, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Great story. I look forward to more information

    Thanks
    Curtis Maybin

    Reply

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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