This time of year is supposed to be about togetherness with family and friends, being grateful for our blessings, and celebrating a new year. But to many people, the holidays are merely a time of stress and a reminder of past unpleasant holidays, lost loved ones, or just general loneliness. As a result, these people are at an increased risk of experiencing depression during the holiday season.
The Mayo Clinic offers this advice for coping with depression during the holidays. First, recognize your triggers. Then take proactive steps to head them off before they cause you to be depressed. Here are some common triggers and tips for handling them:
Holidays remind you of lost relationships or deceased loved ones?
- Acknowledge your feelings. It’s natural to feel sadness or grief. Remember to take the time to cry and express your feelings, and don’t try to force yourself to be happy.
- Reach out to others. Whether it’s a social event, a religious event, or an opportunity to volunteer your time, it’s important to seek out companionship and support if you feel lonely or isolated.
Saddened by changed family situations or dynamics?
- Be realistic. It isn’t always possible to maintain the same traditions and relationships every year during holiday time. Learn to accept that and make new traditions to treasure.
- Set aside differences. If you’ve been harboring resentment towards a certain family member or friend all year long, don’t harp on your differences. Instead commit yourself to maintaining the peace during the holidays. Chances are, they’re also dealing with the stress of the season.
Upset by the financial toll of holiday gift-giving?
- Stick to a budget. You can’t buy happiness, and spending more than you can afford will only bring you more sorrow. Instead, focus on the thought behind the gift – not the price tag.
Overwhelmed by entertaining and attending social engagements?
- Plan ahead. Set time aside for everything you want to accomplish – shopping, baking, visiting friends, etc. Do as much as you can in advance. And don’t be afraid to ask for help with prep and cleanup when entertaining.
- Learn to say no. Don’t take on more than you can or are willing to do. Look at what you have no choice in committing to, then see how much time is left to fit in other invitations, while still allowing yourself time to breathe.
Distressed by the disruption to your diet and exercise routine?
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. If you know you won’t enjoy a holiday party without fitting in time for exercise, fit it in wherever you can. And try eating a healthy snack before attending a get-together, so you don’t fill up on holiday treats.
If you’re worried that someone you know is suffering from holiday-induced depression, try to speak to them in private and ask how they’re doing. Suggest resources where they can go for help, like the National Alliance on Mental Illness website, and offer to make them an appointment with a mental health professional. Be sure to follow-up with them after the holidays as well, so they know you care all year.
If you believe you’re suffering from depression, it’s important to seek medical help. Read the Vitals Patient Guide on Depression for questions to ask and what to expect at the doctor’s office.
Sources: mayoclinic.com and nami.org