Newswise — The holidays are usually a time for people to celebrate with their friends and family over dinner parties and gatherings. But it’s also a time when others feel slightly overwhelmed and anxious.

This is a time fraught with high expectations, family conflicts, jam-packed schedules and financial stress. Dr. Colleen Carney, a sleep and depression expert and psychology professor at Ryerson University, offers this survival guide to help get people through the blues this festive season.

1.“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. For many, it is not so wonderful as singer Andy Williams suggests in his popular Christmas song. Adjusting your expectation to something more realistic will reduce the likelihood of disappointment. This time of year is supposed to be a holiday; a break—focusing on making it an actual break and taking good care of yourself is preferable to setting unrealistic goals. 2. Avoid being alone. When people feel down, they often avoid being around others, which increases the likelihood that their depression will worsen. Be sure to be around people this holiday season. This, however, does not mean you should subject yourself to acquaintances, friends or family members who make you feel badly about yourself. Instead, limit the amount of time you have to spend with those who tend to have negative attitudes and surround yourself with close friends who can offer you lots of support and understanding.

3. A sleepless night might be a cue that you should talk better care of yourself. During the holidays, it is important to practice good self-care. Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? If the all-day family marathon produces dread and remorse, consider a change (e.g., reduce the time spent visiting, reduce your expectations, or plan a family holiday away instead). 4. Stay away from foods and drinks that make you feel worse. It’s tempting to indulge yourself, but excess food or alcoholic beverages can make you feel uncomfortable, sluggish, or even guilty, leading to more intense feelings of depression. Caffeine, alcohol and foods that produce an upset stomach or acid reflux/heartburn can interfere with sleep. Alcohol or caffeine can affect your mood and sleep patterns as well.

5. Mix it up. If the holiday season is miserable to you, why not try something completely new? Instead of sticking with traditions that make you unhappy, take a vacation. That may help you side-step the holiday blues. Anticipate that some people may not approve of your decision to break tradition, but give yourself permission to do the things that make you feel happiest.

6. Decide on a realistic budget and stick to it. The holidays can be a source of financial stress. One way to manage this is to make a realistic plan and stick to it. Expensive gifts are unnecessary and are no more valuable than less expensive, thoughtful gifts. Simple meals give you more time with your guests – isn’t it about the company anyway? This season, adjust your expectations to something manageable to minimize financial stress.

7. If you’re feeling the blues longer than a few weeks, talk to your doctor. Feeling depressed or unable to derive pleasure from activities for more than two weeks may be more than just the holiday blues. Talk to your doctor about whether you are suffering from clinical depression; there are effective treatments available.

Ryerson University is Canada's leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 30,000 students, including 2,300 master's and PhD students, nearly 2,700 faculty and staff, and more than 140,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past four years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada's leading provider of university-based adult education. For more information, visit

- 30 -


Dr. Colleen CarneyDirector, Sleep and Depression LaboratoryAssociate Professor, Department of PsychologyRyerson University of Quiet Your Mind and Get to Sleep: Solutions to Insomnia for those with Depression, Anxiety and Chronic Pain. New Harbinger Press (2009)

Looking for more holiday tip sheets and experts? Visit: