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Depression Health Center

Traveling With Holiday Depression

Experts share tips for dealing with holiday blues away from home.
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By Joseph Saling
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Are you traveling for the holidays? Ready for all the family gatherings, old friends, Mom's cake, the white and drifting snow? It may depend on what happens to your mood when holidays approach. In fact, if you get depressed around the holidays, travel can seem more like a nightmare than a vacation. Here is what experts have to say about traveling with holiday depression.

Traveling With Depression: What to Expect

Travel, according to Philip Muskin, MD, can affect people in different ways. Muskin is a professor of clinical psychiatry and chief of consultation-liaison psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. He tells WebMD, "On one hand, being in a fresh setting may be very beneficial. You're in a new location, on vacation, and you don't need to get up at 6 in the morning for the daily commute. In this fresh environment, stressors are reduced, and you feel a heck of a lot better without the pressures that the holiday blues have been magnifying."

On the other hand, Muskin says, travel is far more stressful than it used to be. "We like to think of it as over the river and through the woods," he says. "But it's not. It's more like eight hours in traffic on the Jersey turnpike or long, seemingly endless lines in the airport." He points out that there are fewer, more crowded flights and far more airport congestion now than in the past.

"Travel can be very stressful," he says, "and if you're depressed, your frustration tolerance doesn't have that roll-with-the-punches resiliency." As a result, when something happens like your flight getting delayed, you are less likely to tell yourself, "It's no big deal."

"Travel is a process," Muskin says, "and it can have a major negative impact, even on people who aren't depressed."

Holiday Depression: Empower Yourself

"Preparation is essential any time you travel," says Helen Grusd, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Beverly Hills, Calif.  and past president of the LA County Psychological Association. "Preparation is your best inoculation against stress."

The preparation Grusd is talking about isn't deciding what clothes you are going to take. "You need to prepare yourself emotionally. How are you going to empower yourself?"

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