How To Recognize And Defeat Holiday Depression Triggers

11/28/2016 11:03 EST | Updated 11/28/2016 11:03 EST

The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time of the year, but for many people, it can be a lonely, isolating and stressful experience.

If you're feeling under pressure from all things holiday-related, from family obligations to gift buying, or if you always feel anxious or sad around this time of year, you're definitely not alone.

According to, depression is common during the months of November and December for a variety of reasons including social isolation, grief for a loved one who passed this time of year and seasonal affective disorder.

If you do find yourself feeling sad for long periods of time, talk to your doctor, who can refer you to a mental health specialist. And, if you are having thoughts of suicide, call or find a local crisis centre. If you believe you're a danger to yourself, immediately call 911 or check in to a hospital emergency room.

Watch the video above to learn about the most common causes of holiday time sadness, and how you can conquer them.

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  • Mindfulness
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    "Mindfulness is acute awareness in the moment," says psychotherapist Nicole McCance. "The depressed mind tends to ruminate and fixate on, say, a conversation that went wrong with your boss. Being mindful is just focusing on what’s going on right now, what are you hearing, smelling, sensing. It slows the mind down and it tends to put things in perspective, like ‘right now in this moment, I’m actually OK.’" McCance recommends literally focusing on "what colour is on the walls, where are your feet, where is your body in the chair, how do your clothes feel against your skin?"
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
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    "Most people think they have to see a therapist or lay on the couch," says McCance. But CBT can be done on the phone or over Skype, which tends to equal a higher retention rate. "It looks at the impact of your thoughts on your mood," she explains. "People start becoming aware of 'what are my thoughts and how do my thoughts impact my emotions?' It's counteracting automatic fear-based thoughts, because a lot of our fear is actually irrational, and you can learn that with enough practice."
  • Interpersonal Therapy
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    "This type of therapy looks at your relationships, rather than CBT which focuses on symptom reduction," says McCance. This short-term therapy usually lasts about three months, and looks at which relationships aren't working in your life and why. "It gives the tools to help you communicate better, or put up boundaries, for example."
  • Exercise
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    You've heard this before, and you'll hear it again — exercise can lift your mood. "It also helps with fatigue," points out McCance. She notes exercise releases endorphins in addition to norepinephrine, a hormone and natural antidepressant. "Once my clients get exercising, they're generally more positive and the ability to let things go is a bit easier for them." She recommends half an hour to an hour of moderate exercises daily, and not to wait until you're "motivated" — just get your running shoes on and go, and the motivation will come.
  • Acupuncture
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    A lot of people don’t know that traditional Chinese medicine looks at depression very differently. "A lot of Westerners don’t know acupuncture can impact our mood — they think it can only impact our muscles," says McCance. "In acupuncture, depression is looked at as an imbalance in the body. Pins are put in at certain meridians to remove energy blockages." She admits there's not a lot of knowledge as to why exactly it works, but has found anecdotally it makes clients more calm and less anxious, gets rid of aches and pains, and helps with sleep.