By World Renowned Neurosurgeon, Triathlete, Nutrition and Brain Health Expert Joseph C. Maroon, MD, FACS and Jeff Bost PAC

Holidays are surrounded by unique cues – certain sounds, smells, decorations and people we see only once a year. These trigger holiday memories of “the good old days.” But sometimes these can also be a source of sadness leading to depressive and anxious feelings, especially for those suffering a loss or loneliness.

Holidays can induce stress-related symptoms and behaviors – headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and new onset insomnia. For those most affected it can lead to social withdrawal, even thoughts of suicide. COVID-19 remains a concern especially at holiday gatherings, creating additional stress and worry about our own and our loved ones’ health.

Making New Memories

A great way to avoid holiday blues is to make new memories. New traditions and altered expectations can provide unique enjoyable experiences far less likely to provoke comparisons with the past. Vacation travel during the holidays is one of the most common ways to “jump-start” the season, but it can be expensive and stressful. Here are several other holiday tips easier on the budget and on stress:

  • Make time to contact a long-lost friend or relative and spread holiday cheer.
  • Limit drinking and spending, since both can increase feelings of depression and regret.
  • Don’t abandon healthy habits. Continue to eat healthy meals,
    get plenty of sleep and include regular physical exercise in your daily routine.
  • If you know what triggers holiday-related memories that make you sad, discuss it with family and friends. You can gain support just discussing your feelings out loud.
  • Try volunteering to help others.
  • Most importantly, be with people. Don’t withdraw or be afraid to enjoy the holidays.

Holiday cues that trigger memories of people we have lost may not be an all-bad thing. Although they can catch us off-guard and make us sad, they also help us to remember the good times and keep loved ones alive in our memory. Have a happy and safe holiday season.

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