The Holidays and Your Depression
It's no secret that the holidays aren't as perfect as portrayed on TV. But if you have depression, it might seem as if everyone but you is joyous and celebrating.
It’s common for people who are prone to depression to have the holiday blues.
Whether you're depressed now or have a history of depression, preparation and prevention are most important as you approach the holidays. You’ll be more successful at managing depression during the holidays if you take the time to come up with a plan for dealing with holiday stress.
And the earlier you develop a plan, the better — autumn can be a good time to begin preparing. If you normally see a therapist, it’s something you can work on together as part of your depression treatment. If you are not currently seeing a therapist, contact one of the SoulCare counselors on the About Us page. Or click here .
The first part of your plan is to determine what is causing your holiday distress.
Even people who aren't depressed sometimes feel down during the holidays. The list of holiday stressors is extensive and varies from person to person, but some common factors that can contribute to depression are:
Everyone else seems happy. People tend to compare themselves with other people who seem to be having a good time, and this can be especially problematic for people with depression. They may compare the way they’re feeling with their own happier times or simply with an ideal of how they think they should feel, and this adds to stress.
Extra burdens. Holiday stress can come from the need to shop, decorate, attend work parties, juggle travel plans, and more. For those who are depressed or prone to depression, the extra stressors around the holidays can take a lot of energy. Because people with depression struggle with energy deficiencies already, these extra burdens can trigger more depression.
Financial worries. For many people, the holidays are stressful because they spend more money. Some feel they need to buy a lot of expensive items and after the holidays they have accumulated quite a bit of credit card debt. Others may feel that they are obligated to buy everyone they know a gift. These extra expenses can create distress.
Family tension. Although arguing about politics with a relative over the holiday dinner sounds like a cliché, family differences are real and stressful. Knowing that you will likely see your abrasive sister-in-law or your crazy aunt may trigger some emotional distress.
The second part of your plan is to determine how to manage your mood during the holidays.
Certain tactics can help you manage depression during the holiday season. Try these tips:
Acknowledge your feelings. Understand and accept that it’s normal to experience some stress during the holidays. If you start feeling symptoms of depression that you’ve felt in the past, don’t panic. Instead, reach out to a loved one and your therapist. Journal your feelings and give yourself permission to have those feelings.
Set limits for yourself. The holidays can be taxing, so set some boundaries on how much you can do in terms of socializing, spending, and traveling.
Stay social. While you should limit the number of events you agree to attend, that doesn’t mean you should spend the holidays at home alone. People with depression tend to isolate themselves more and it may be a challenge to make yourself be with people; resisting the urge to stay home alone will help you manage your depression.
Listen to your favorite music or watch favorite movies. Music that uplifts your spirit and opens your heart will help you to manage depressive thoughts or feelings. Movies that help you feel good are also a good strategy for managing depressive symptoms. Invite someone to watch with you.
Make time for prayer and meditation on the Scriptures. Praying about how you are feeling and allowing God to comfort you with His presence can help you experience more joy during the holidays. Meditation has been practiced down through the centuries by those who long to experience God’s presence. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” The busyness and hurriedness of the holidays can bring on depression simply because we have not slowed ourselves long enough to be able pay attention to God’s presence. Meditation and prayer position you to tune into God’s comforting presence.
Stick to healthy habits. Although you may be busier than usual with holiday tasks, it is best that you stick to your regular routine as much as possible. That means maintaining your normal bedtime, making sure you exercise regularly, and eating healthy.
Limit your alcohol intake. Because alcohol can make depression worse, limit how much you drink during the holidays. It is best to avoid it altogether especially if you are taking any anti-depressant medication. Most medications should not be mixed with alcohol but if you are taking medication for depression, you should avoid drinking alcohol any time of the year.
Identify your personal triggers. Does too much activity deplete your energy levels? Does overeating or eating too many sweets disrupt your healthy eating? Does interacting with a particular relative leave you feeling awful? Do you stress over having to buy so many gifts? Or gifts you can't really afford? Whatever it is, write down the problem or the trigger and write out a solution. It might mean changing your routine so you are not so drained or not letting a certain relative get under your skin or cutting back on your gift-exchange list. Whatever it is, make a plan so that you, rather than depression, controls your life.