On Dealing With Holiday Depression
Holiday depression is relatively common, but still, people who suffer often feel guilty. There are a lot of expectations about how you are suppose to feel and act – but quite frankly, I can think of no better time of year for depression to set in. Here’s why…
One, people are under a lot of stress. Buying gifts, especially in holiday traffic, can be incredibly daunting, not to mention expensive. Serving dinner for multiple people? That in of itself can be a big pressure. And of course, for someone who is already suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), holiday stress can make life even worse.
Finance troubles, not surprisingly, can be a big contributor to holiday depression. So can loneliness – over 40% of Americans are single, and nearly one-third live alone. Persons who are young and healthy can go to friends and family gatherings, but still, being without a romantic partner over the holidays can be difficult – especially for the recently divorced.
In addition, older people and those with disabilities may not have much company if they are ill-equipped to leave their residences.
If there’s been the death of someone close to you, this is another cause for depression. In addition to the pain and grief already suffered, you must also endure the fact that your loved is no longer around to attend holiday gatherings and events.
And all of this may be even harder than women – we are a greater risk for depression, and much of shopping, cooking, and and party planning is burdened upon us.
How To Deal
Plan ahead. If you don’t know what you are doing for the holidays, make plans as soon as you can. Do your Christmas shopping early. Last minute decision-making is likely to make depression and anxiety worse. If you don’t have a New Year’s Eve date, call on a friend and make sure you give yourself the opportunity to celebrate.
Don’t go it alone. If you are organizing a dinner, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Women especially tend to put tremendous tasks such as this on themselves, and it can be a huge source of stress and worry. You can also ask for help with shopping and planning events.
Forgive yourself. If you can’t afford gifts, consider crafting something for special people, or simply letting them know how much you love them. Remember, Christmas is supposed to be about caring and kindness, and spending time with loved ones. However, the increasingly insane commercial aspect surrounding the holiday has really hurt a lot of low-income Americans, both financially and emotionally.
Allow yourself to be imperfect. Not everything is always going to turn out right. Whether something gets burnt, or a present gets missed, remember that no one is flawless.
Make time to rest and sleep. Nothing makes people more depressed and agitated than being overworked, particularly on a lack of sleep. Also make time for yourself – allow yourself to reflect on the reasons why you are depressed. Don’t use the holidays as a an excuse to not take care of your own mental and physical well-being.
Avoid isolation. Even if you don’t have someone to go or someone to visit, consider volunteering at a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or senior care facility. There are others who will appreciate both your time and company.
The end is the beginning. One of the best things about the holidays is that they signal the end of the year. Make some positive New Year’s resolutions, and remember that you have the opportunity to start anew and make constructive changes in your life.
If depression continues, even after the holidays, please seek professional help in the form of counseling or therapy.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology