“Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile” stirs happy memories of singing Christmas carols for some, but for others, the holidays can be the most stressful and loneliest time of the year. The holidays often present a dizzying array of demands – shopping, baking, and entertaining to name a few. For those dealing with mental health conditions like depression or or anxiety, the holidays can be even harder.
Holiday depression can be misinterpreted as being nothing more than the winter blues. So, when it comes to the holidays, people are more focused on their physical health issues instead of their mental health issues. They are more interested in losing weight than taking care of their mental health. Being unaware that there is a problem can make holiday depression evolve into major depression. Counseling and medication are good avenues to seek if you are living with symptoms of depression.
Here are 9 tips that you can use to help you with holiday depression:
- Be realistic – Holidays change just as people change. Kids grow older, people move, and new people will become a part of your life. Focus on those connections, new traditions and remember past holidays with fondness while still enjoying the one right in front of you.
- Schedule Some Down-Time – Even 15-20 minutes a day to enjoy some quiet time, take a bath, listen to music or read a book can do wonders for your stress levels. Plus, it’s ok to say no: you don’t have to attend every party or family event.
- Don’t Isolate Yourself – Look for ways that you can enjoy social connections, even if you aren’t able to go home for the holidays. If you are feeling lonely, ask a friend to come over for a heart to heart or volunteer for something that interests you.
- Drink Only in Moderation – Alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate negative feelings.
- Exercise Regularly – While hitting the gym can be tough when you are stressed and busy, try going for a short walk. Did you know that exercise can help relieve symptoms of depression?
- Focus on the Positives – Today is a gift. That is why it’s called the present! Being positive and practicing gratitude has a strong positive impact on psychological well-being. It increases self-esteem, enhances positive emotions and makes us more optimistic.
- Keep Expectations Manageable – Try to set realistic goals for yourself and your family. Pace yourself. Organize your time and make a list and prioritize the important activities.
- Let People Close to You Know What’s Going On – Don’t try to hide your holiday depression from your friends and family. Hiding your problem can make your mental health worse. Instead, be honest with them and let them know what you are going through and make sure you let them know that you don’t expect them to make it better.
- Seek Professional Help if You Need It – You may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, unable to sleep, unable to face routine chores or irritable and hopeless despite your best efforts. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Avoid beating yourself up if you are not full of the “joy of the season.” With some planning, self-care and social connections, it’s possible to tackle depression around the holidays and still enjoy the season. Be gentle with yourself, have realistic expectations, and don’t abandon your healthy habits just because it’s the holiday season. By actively working to manage your mental health, you will be able to make the best of the holidays!
If you are experiencing these symptoms over a period of several weeks, you may be depressed. Talking with a mental health professional or taking a mental health screening test can help you understand how well you are coping with recent events. Seek help.