‘Tis The Season For Holiday Depression
You’ve survived Thanksgiving, which may have included arguing about politics and plotting to leave the country after the election. But now that the turkey and dressing are gone, your inbox is filled with sale emails and party invitations. And you’re getting stressed. That’s why you need to take care of your mental health to ward off holiday depression this time of year.
Why do people get depressed during the holidays?
For some people, December celebrations are full of joy and cheer and connecting with family. For other people, they are met with unrealistic expectations. Of getting every gift on a child’s wish list. Of getting all the greeting cards in the mail on time. Of making the perfect meal and having the perfect family to eat it. The difference between what we think should happen and what actually happens is the place where disappointment and holiday depression reside.
Even if everything does turn out well, many people have lost important loved ones in the past. For them, the holidays are a reminder of those losses and how different, or disappointing, the holidays are without those special people. Whether the deaths are recent or long passed, unresolved grief can contribute to holiday depression and make it difficult for us to get through the holidays without tears and sadness.
Another source of holiday depression is stress. The parties, the shopping, and the late-night revelry are taxing on the mind as well as the body. It’s easy to lose sight of taking care of yourself when the reason for the season is taking care of others. Rushing around town every day and preoccupying ourselves with our to-do list — along with all the other non-holiday obligations — makes us tired, weakens our defenses, and leaves us susceptible to low moods and low energy.
How can you ward off holiday depression?
Aside from canceling the holidays altogether and spending December on a tropical island, there are plenty of ways to ward off holiday depression.
- Be Realistic: Maybe this year isn’t the time for you to invite 20 people to dinner because you can’t cook and your house isn’t big enough. It’s okay to have holiday goals, but scale them back if they require herculean efforts to pull off. Look at your resources carefully and only expend what you can afford. For real.
- Be Nice to Yourself: ‘Tis the season for giving, but as the saying goes, you can’t take care of anything else unless you take care of yourself. Everyone is entitled to rest and decompression every day, not just during the holidays. So carve some time out for yourself this month to do whatever you want to do. Get your nails done. Go to the gym. Do whatever restores and rejuvenates you and releases your stress. And then when you feel good, you can enjoy yourself.
- Practice Being Grateful: No matter what is going on in your life, you have something to be happy about. If you feel sad or depressed, try writing down five or 10 things for which you are grateful. Reflecting on positive aspects of your life will keep you from worrying about perfection and it will keep you from dwelling on what may be difficult.
- Use Selective “Nos”: You don’t have to participate in every cookie swap or Secret Santa that someone offers to you. Buying more gifts puts pressure on your wallet, and making things puts pressure on your time and your mental capacity. Instead of saying yes to everyone, set a limit for the number of holiday events you’ll join and keep it. Try telling others, “I’m sorry but I’m just too busy/to financially strapped/too stressed right now. I hope you enjoy your holidays and we’ll catch up in January.”
- Be Present: Kids enjoy the holidays because they enjoy all the activities as they come. They may worry about what Santa brought them, but they’re always happy just to play with what they got. So be like a kid, stay in the present moment every day and enjoy the festivities as they come. Maybe it’s not the same since your mother died. And maybe all of your kids are getting on your last nerve. But there are good times to be had, whether they’re watching your favorite holiday movie or baking your grandmother’s cookies. Focus on those moments as they come, and your worries will slip into the background. At least until the credit card bills come.