Depression During the Holidays

Posted on December 18th, 2012
Posted in Depression

holiday-depressionThe holiday season can be a time that brings us joy and happiness, but it can also bring with it plenty of stress. When we experience stress, joy is one of the first gifts to go out the window. In its place, stress frequently brings along the unwelcome companion of depression. To keep that from happening here are a few attitudes that you can adopt. Choosing your own mental state is a powerful way to ensure you will get the most out of the trying holiday season.

1. Be honest about emotions
If you have recently experienced a separation, a divorce or the death of a loved one, don’t deny the pain and grief those losses cause. It is normal to feel bereft and heavy-hearted. There is no need to slap on a smile that is not genuine just because of the date on the calendar. It is healthy to occasionally cry and confess your sad feelings over loss.

2. Be a friend
One reason that depression can get a toehold at this time of year is through feelings of isolation. When it appears that everyone else is connecting warmly with others, our own loneliness can feel intense. But, you don’t have to be lonely. You can reach out to others and be a friend. Attend church or religious gatherings. Volunteer at a food kitchen, clothes bank or other charitable outreach. Go to social occasions and make the effort to be friendly toward others rather than waiting for them to move towards you. Invite people over.

3. Be flexible
Every Christmas will be different. Avoid the trap of attempting to top last year’s celebration. Demanding that the table, decorations, meals and activities all go exactly according to plan is a recipe for stress. Remember that with each passing year kids grow older and what your celebration looks like will change accordingly. This means that at some point not all of your children will be with you for Christmas/Hanukah/New Year’s. You will need to explore new ways to share the season with adult children who cannot be with you in person.

4. Be a sensible shopper
One of the chief stressors during this time of year is finances. If you are on a budget, don’t buy like you aren’t. Even if you are not on a budget, avoid spending money imprudently. More packages under the tree does not equal more love. Buying fewer gifts with more meaning and more time spent investing in relationships will help you maintain a positive mood.

5. Be accepting
The holidays mean time with family members, co-workers and friends in one setting or another. Don’t enter those situations with a mental checklist for others. Instead, accept that others will celebrate in ways that differ from your own. If someone in the group has a meltdown, avoiding judging them, but assume that they are facing holiday stresses just like you.

6. Be wise
You can’t possibly do everything this season. You will have to make choices about what events to attend, how much baking is realistic, when and for whom you can shop and whether or not you should make alcohol part of the picture. You will need to give a firm no thank you to some things.

The holiday season is not in control of your life and emotions – you are. Take care to assume a healthy mental outlook and keep more of the joy and less of the stress.

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