Depression is one of the biggest problems most people face during the holidays. It’s easy to understand why. Not only is it a time that brings a great deal of stress, running from one party to another, preparing meals and shopping for presents, it’s also a time when we often eat a lot of sugary foods that make your sugar levels rise and fall dramatically, bringing with those changes the jitters and then the mood swing downward. For those whose family is at a distance or gone, the holidays brings a feeling of loneliness, too. To avoid the problem, you need to create a new mantra. Add “Exercise & Holidays” to your phrases this time of year and you’ll notice a huge change in your attitude.

Too much holiday cheer can bring on the blues.

Whether you’re at an office Christmas party or at a family one, if there’s alcohol readily available, consider passing it up and instead going for a short walk with several friends to get your blood moving and eliminate stress. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional glass of wine or drink, when you’re already in a depressed state, it only magnifies it. Rather than opting for a bit of spirits to lift your spirits, take a brisk walk, go caroling or go to a gym. The increased circulation will help you feel better almost immediately.

Sugar is not your friend.

Those wonderful cookies and cakes friends give you can double the holiday blues. They taste yummy but send your blood sugar spiking, which is followed by a huge drop that makes you feel worse than you did before you ate the treat. Limit the sweets over the holidays. Try some mood boosting foods instead. Cashews and walnuts are great mood lifters. Some whole food stores actually grind them for you on the spot to make butter. When you’re feeling down, a spoonful of cashew butter on a cracker provides protein and magnesium. Low magnesium levels are associated with depression. The high protein will give you energy without making your sugar spike. I normally don’t bother with the cracker, since I love cashews, and just eat a spoonful occasionally. Kale, chicken soup and yogurt also help elevate your mood.

Workout for a better mood.

There’s no doubt about it, a good workout will put a smile on your face. Not only does exercise help burn off the hormones that come from stress and can lead to depression, it also triggers the creation of ones that make you feel good. It helps circulate the blood, sending oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body, too. In fact, everyone should exercise at least a half hour a day to feel good during holiday time. Walking through the stores may seem like exercise, but fighting the crowds adds to the stress.

Some depression comes from dehydration. Drink plenty of water. If the weather is cold, heat the water and add a pinch of lemon or a bouillon cube.

If you get loads of sugary gifts, freeze them in individual size packages. You can savor the flavor all year long by limiting yourself to one pack a day, plus you’ll have treats available when company comes. Change the mantra from “Food & Holidays” to “Exercise & Holidays.”

There’s always time to exercise. Do it the first thing in the morning or combine your normal chores with exercise. If you’re cleaning the house, put some zip into it. Don’t bend your knees when picking stuff up off the floor, as you might with toe touches. Time yourself and rush as fast as you can until you’re breathless. Make it a game.

Do something nice for someone else during the holidays. Do a random act of kindness for a stranger, visit a shut in or take a person who can’t drive shopping. You’ll feel good about yourself.

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