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Depression and the Holidays: Tips for Coping and Enjoying the Season

by | Dec 13, 2021 | Depression, Holidays

Forward, Together with western tidewater community services board

Everyone seems to be brimming over with excitement, joy, and warm feelings this holiday season.

I feel depressed.

Instead of anticipating the holidays, I feel like I just want to get through it all.

Is there a way to stop these depressed feelings and just enjoy the season?

We understand, and there is hope.


Why the Holidays Can Be Difficult

The holidays bring in more than good tidings and cheer.

They can waft in financial, physical, and stressful emotional demands.

We can feel flawed when we compare ourselves to others.

“Why does my holiday (i.e., home, decorations, social life, family, finances, and more…) not look like (name anyone) on their social media posts? Where is my holiday spirit?”

We can feel depressed due to all the holiday demands.

Related: 7 signs of depression you might miss

“I feel ashamed and sad that I cannot afford to buy the gifts that I need to buy for my friends and family. I do not have time to bake all day. I barely have time to do what I normally do each day.”

We feel sad when we miss those that are no longer with us, or when we are reminded of difficult times that we have experienced during the holidays.

“I miss my loved one and I am feeling blue. I had a very hard situation happen during the holiday season several years ago. The holidays trigger my feelings of depression.”

People can experience seasonal depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is a form of major depressive disorder (MDD) and is characterized by symptoms of depression that occur when there is less sunlight at certain times of the year.

Unlike MDD, which occurs throughout the year, SAD is cyclical. If this describes how you feel – “I feel blah. I have no energy. The days are shorter, and the sun is setting before I even get home from work every day. I do not want to see my friends. I do not want to go out. I just want to hibernate through this season,” you may be experiencing SAD.

SAD is treatable through various methods, including light therapy, talk therapy, and antidepressants.

Tips for Coping with Holiday Depression

As daunting as the holiday season may feel, there are some mental preparations and planning that can help with stress management and depression prevention.

Be realistic

Despite the way it looks, most people are not having the ‘perfect’ holiday season.

Life changes, and as families and friends change, so do holiday traditions and expectations.

Acknowledge your feelings but give yourself some kindness and space to create the holiday season that meets your mental needs. Enjoy your holiday the way you want to.

Reach out to others

It may feel counter-intuitive when you are in the midst of sadness and depression and you want to withdraw, but connecting with others can help to ease sadness away.

Plan to do something that you enjoy doing, something that brings relaxation and joy into your life, and invite someone along.

Reach out to someone that you have not connected with for a long time. Volunteer to help others. Do something for someone else.

Create a budget and stick to it

Budgeting for the holiday season can consist of spreading your shopping and spending throughout the year, but to prevent stress from financial hardship, create a budget today and stick to it.

Spare yourself from the emotional cost of overspending and subsequent post-holiday depression.

Set boundaries

You may feel pressured by numerous requests from your family and friends, but to protect your peace and mental well-being, you can say no.

For some people, work ramps up as the holidays are near, and this is even more reason to say no to extra demands.

Saying no is a form of self-care.

Engage in self-care

To ward off stress and depression, it is crucial to engage in self-care.

Self-care starts with the basics – eat healthy meals, get enough rest and sleep, work some physical activity into the day, avoid excessive alcohol use, and avoid the use of drugs.

Beyond the basics, do something relaxing that you enjoy, and do it often. This can be as simple as reading a book or diffusing essential oils into a room.

Plan ahead

Our lives can feel busy enough without the holidays and broken routines.

Planning is essential to maintaining a sense of peace.

The holidays are meant to be a time of relaxation and enjoyment, so when we spread out our planned activities, such as shopping, food preparation, or gatherings, we give ourselves the space to enjoy the season.

Give yourself a break

Give yourself a much-needed hiatus to usher in peace.

Take a break from social media as well.

While it can feel good to connect with friends on social media, it can also be a mentally dangerous place where people compare themselves to others, and the picture that is painted on social media is that everyone is having a perfect holiday season, which is far from reality.

Take the pressure off and give yourself a break.

Reach Out for Help

Holiday depression is a real thing. It arrives in one season, and then it typically floats away.

Holiday depression can also be a sign of major depressive disorder which occurs and lingers throughout the entire year.

If you are experiencing depressed and anxious feelings that are persistent despite your best efforts, please seek professional help.

There is no shame in reaching out for help.

We are here 24/7. We make access to professional, high-quality, wrap-around care convenient. Call us at (757) 758-5106 or reach out to us online here.

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