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Giving presents can be a satisfying experience, but often people can feel competitive and pressured. One-upmanship to buy the best presents for friends and loved ones can take the pleasure out of gift-giving and make the festive period a breeding ground for insecurity and depression.

Dr Walid Abdul-Hamid from the Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai says: “Research shows that income and material wealth alone does not provide any guarantee of happiness or a good life[1]. Yet, at this time of year we put a lot of time and energy into buying lavish gifts. As such, we are putting ourselves at greater risk of developing depression and anxiety.”

Christmas can also make people think about happy and sad childhood memories. This can be particularly difficult for expats away from family, loved ones and childhood friends. Dr Walid warns: “For people spending Christmas alone it can be a stressful experience that might trigger a depressive episode.  These feelings can be intensified if combined with heavy drinking, as this is in itself is a depressant. For those spending Christmas with family, old conflicts might re-emerge and unsaid regrets might be vented after consuming too much drink, and that could lead to an equally stressful time.”

Symptoms of a depressive episode

Warning signs to look out for include:

  • Agitation
  • Irritation
  • Low mood
  • Reduced levels of enjoyment
  • Feelings of despair
  • Guilt
  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns

Tips for a peaceful Christmas break

To help people enjoy and relax during the festive season, Dr Walid has put together some tips to help ensure a happy and peaceful break:

  • Try to remove yourself from stressful situations or potential conflict. Go for a walk in the fresh air and clear your head if you need to
  • Be ‘mindful’ of your body. Learning how to relax is an important tool for dealing with stress. Take one minute out periodically during the day to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Be mindful while taking deep breaths and notice the sensations and feelings that occur in your body
  • Manage expectations when returning home and try not to put too much pressure on yourself or others
  • Try meditating - take five minutes every day just for yourself. Sit in silence and do nothing
  • Manage your time effectively. Take the stress and worry out of visiting friends and family by devising and sticking to a schedule

Dr Walid concludes: “I cannot stress enough the importance of reaching out for professional help if you think you might be suffering from depression. It is far better to catch and treat depression early while it is milder and less difficult to treat.”

For information on the specialist services Priory can offer, please call the enquiries and referrals team on (+971) 4 245 3800 or click here to make an enquiry online.

[1] Richard Layard (2011) Happiness: Lessons from a New Science. Second edition