The thought of the holidays arriving can bring a mixture of feelings. For some people, the holidays are a joyous time filled with family and friends. For others, the holidays can bring moments of stress and aggravation due to the increased demands, the increased traffic, the increased shopping lines, etc. For others, the holidays can be a time filled with sadness, grief, and depression. It can be particularly difficult for people who are already struggling with depression. It is hard to put on a happy face when you feel so down. Listed below are some steps that you can take to battle feelings of depression during the holidays. First, I have listed some of the most common contributors to feelings of depression during the holidays.
- Unresolved grief – Grief is a normal reaction when we experience losses in our life. Grief is the process we go through to heal those losses so that we can re-engage in life going forward. Sometimes people get stuck in their grief and become depressed as a result. When this occurs, it is important to seek help from a professional so that you can heal from the losses and get back to living the life that you want.
- Loneliness – If you are isolated and alone, it is easy to start feeling depressed when the holidays arrive. The images that are portrayed in the media of families and friends getting together can heighten these feelings of being alone and can contribute to feelings of sadness and depression.
- Family Conflict – Some families have a tradition of everyone getting together so that they can fight “like cats and dogs. ”Old childhood wounds may re-emerge, and unresolved conflicts play out over and over again. It is hard to feel happy when everyone is hurt and angry.
- Heightened expectations – The holidays tend to bring an increase in expectations both from ourselves and from others. This can lead to heightened disappointments and feelings of depression.
- Seasonal depression – The increase in the darkness that tends to come during the winter months adversely affects the mood of some people.
- Unresolved trauma – If you have experienced trauma in the past, it could re-emerge during the holiday months, especially if the traumatic events occurred during this time period.
- Increased alcohol consumption – Alcohol is a depressant. The more you drink the more it depresses the body and the mood.
- Increased financial stress – The holidays often come with an expectation of more spending, especially if you have kids. In an effort to provide the “perfect holiday” for the family, many people overspend and end up feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and depressed when they begin to face the reality of having to pay for their purchases.
Steps to take to combat depression during the holidays
- Manage your expectations – You can’t do everything, so don’t try to be a superhero. Set realistic expectations about what you can and can’t do. Also, don’t expect everyone else to meet all your needs, wants, and desires. Create realistic expectations and you won’t be disappointed.
- Manage the expectations of others – The holidays often bring an increase in expectations. The more proactive you are about managing the expectations of others, the less conflict there tends to be and the less stress that you have to manage.
- Create meaningful holiday traditions – It is often helpful to create new holiday traditions that add enjoyment and meaning to your current life. You don’t have to follow old traditions just because it is what “we always do.”If the old traditions no longer meet your needs, be willing to change them.
- Minimize exposure to toxic relationships – It is depressing to be around toxic people. Minimize your exposure to toxicity. You will be happier as a result.
- Develop and utilize a support network – Don’t isolate during the holidays. Reach out to those you care about and surround yourself with supportive people. If you don’t have support, start looking for ways of building a support network for the future.
- Don’t overcommit – Sometimes you need to cut activities out, instead of squeezing one more thing in. Take control of your stress by taking control of how you spend your time.
- Don’t overspend – Set a realistic budget and stick with it. You will be glad you did when the holidays end and the bills begin to arrive.
- If you are alone for the holidays, try doing some of the things below:
- Catch up on binge-watching your favorite shows
- Get a good book to read
- Do that project you have been putting off
- Treat yourself to a special meal
- Call old friends
- Go to a movie, play, or concert
- Start a new hobby or spend time doing hobbies you already enjoy
- Leave some downtime – Create some time to relax.
- Get involved – Instead of isolating yourself, find things to get involved in. If someone invites you to a gathering, say “yes” and then engage with others around you.
- Volunteer – Volunteering to help others can be a great way to change your perspective and create more gratitude.
- Plan activities that are fun – Having fun and playing can be a great buffer against depression. Look for activities to get involved in that bring you moments of joy.
- Be willing to develop new relationships – New friendships can open a lot of doors. Join activities that allow you to meet in small groups. It is a great way to get to know people.
- Allow yourself to grieve – Remember that grief is the normal process of healing from losses. Give yourself permission to grieve so that the grief doesn’t evolve into depression.
- Allow time for traffic and crowds – During the holidays, there will be an increase in crowds and traffic. Adjust your internal pace and expectations to allow for these things. You will be less stressed as a result.
- Nurture yourself – Sometimes we need a little bit of extra tender loving care. Who better to give it to you than you? Schedule a massage or some other activity that you find nurturing.
- Seek professional help when needed – Sometimes it becomes hard to break out of depression during the holidays. If needed, seek out a therapist to help you work through the issues that are causing the depression. Your future self will thank you.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.