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Tips for fighting holiday depression

Monday - 12/2/2013, 12:59pm  ET

Keeping spirits up during the holidays

Dr. Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of the Mindful Living Network and Stress Institute

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WASHINGTON - The holiday season is here, and it's a time for family, friends, fun, giving and joy. But those feelings makes the season miserable for some.

Dr. Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of the Mindful Living Network and Stress Institute, says a lot of people feel miserable at this time of year, but that there are steps to help yourself out of holiday depression.

During an interview on WTOP, Hall says the shortening days and lengthening nights can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, which about 6 percent of Americans suffer with to some extent.

But the holidays also bring up a lot of emotions, and Hall says that common stresses such as the aftermath of a divorce or the death of a loved one get magnified at this time of year.

A lot of people are also burdened with "unrealistic expectations of what the holiday is supposed to be," Hall says. And more people than ever live far from their relatives, so their feelings of loneliness can hit hard at a time when everyone else is celebrating with family.

But it's important to remember, Hall says, that there are things you can do -- and some of them are simple.

  • If you've had a falling-out with someone close to you, the Christmas season can also help bring you back together. Hall suggests giving them a call or sending them an email or a letter if you're too intimidated. You'd be surprised how easily things can by patched up.

    "Miracles can happen this time of year, because a lot of people's...hearts are more open than at other times of year," Hall said.

  • Hall suggests finding new ways to celebrate, whether it's a new food tradition, going to a different friend's or relative's house for the holiday, or something as simple as decorating.

    "Decorate even though you don't want to do it," she says. "It's amazing that even putting a poinsettia [or] a small tree up with a light on the top of it -- anything that brings you back home to yourself."

  • When you're hurting you have the same kind of instinct that animals have when they're physically hurt, Hall says.

    "You want to go in a cave and withdraw," she says. Volunteering is a great way to connect with people, Hall says. Find places and organizations that do things you're interested in.

    "You're gonna find friends; you're gonna find common ground with people," Hall added.

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