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The Holiday Season and Depression Are Not Mutually Exclusive**

The Holidays Are Stressful And You’re Not Alone

disclaimer: **I‘m not a doctor. This is a general discussion about the acknowledgement of depression during the holidays. If you are in need of immediate help, please call your family physician, contact the Help Line in your area, or call for emergency services.

For many the holiday season is full of bright lights, family, and good cheer, but there are also many people suffering from depression, seasonal affective disorder, or have personal circumstances that affect them, especially during holiday celebrations.

Holidays and family gatherings can feel forced and extremely stressful and you need to stay in tune with what you’re feeling. Gauge your mood and where you are in relation to what’s going on around you.

Let’s Define Depression…

Source: unsplash Anthony Tran

Depression is a common mental disorder affecting more than 264 million people worldwide. It is characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities.  It can also disturb sleep and appetite; tiredness and poor concentration are common.

The World Health Organization

You don’t need to be diagnosed by a doctor to know that your thinking, mood, and energy are off kilter, but medical intervention with medication or therapy can make a difference for you. Or, sometimes the symptoms can be managed by behavior, exercise, and a change in lifestyle.

The Build Up of Expectation Can Cause Anxiety During the Holidays

Source: Unsplash Marcel StrauB

As soon as Halloween is over the shift is to “the holidays”.

It happens every year. We know the days, we know the routine, and we often know the outcome–yet we continue year after year doing the same things.

Perhaps it’s the entire idea of “tradition” that’s causing the stress, anxiety, and ultimately the depression.

Ask Yourself:

  • Why is a turkey dinner with all the trimmings necessary?
  • Why does everything–decor/gifts/wrap/house/lights/tress/food etc. need to be perfect?
  • Who defines perfect? Is it you?
  • Is this a self-fulfulling prophecy?
  • Who are you doing all the work for?
  • Is it time to pass the reigns and let someone else do all the work?
  • If you don’t do it, what will the consequence be?
  • Who really cares? Seriously… who? Isn’t it about being together?
  • You don’t need to do it.
  • Why do you put so much pressure on yourself to fulfill an expectation that you’ve embraced without even realizing it?

Being aware and in-tune with this is half the battle. Answer the questions honestly. If you’re feeling depressed because of all the work, the lack of recognition, or just being plain tired of it all, then step back and ask for help.

Holiday Depression Due to Loss

My younger brother had a heart attack on Christmas Day over twenty years ago. He died the next day. He was in his early 30’s.

Those first few years after his death, the holidays were difficult. I missed him (still do) and it didn’t seem real. Everything went on, but without him.

I’m not alone in this. Many have lost a loved one who is missed especially at the holidays because there’s such an emphasis on family and togetherness.

The loss of a companion, a child, or even a pet can bring on depression and a desire to isolate.

Again, be aware of your reasons for feeling this way as this may help you in being able to move forward.

I have a “heavenly chat” with my younger bro every Christmas. This allows me to acknowledge his passing and that he is missed, without going down into a rabbit hole of melancholy.

It took practice though.

Don’t assume that when you see someone who’s smiling, that they’re not also grieving or missing a loved one. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life.

And on the flip side of that… If you see someone who’s grumpy, dazed, and generally out of sorts, cut them some slack. Offer you support. Again, you have no idea what they’re going through.

Source: Unsplash: thoughtcatalog

Separation Also Affects our Mental Health During the Holidays.

If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that constant isolation is unhealthy and affects our mental health.

Sometimes we’re separated from our family, friends, and communities by circumstance, and other times by necessity, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

During the holidays there can be separation from those those we love for many reasons. Including:

  • Travel and health restrictions.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Being in hospital.
  • Nursing Home.
  • People in prison.
  • Death.
  • Distance.
  • 24-7 Care giver.
  • Dementia.
  • Divorce.
  • Recent Break-up.
  • Joblessness.
  • Debt.
  • Drugs and Alcohol Abuse.
  • Homelessness.
  • Recent Retirement or job loss.

Keep this in mind, not only for yourself but also when you’re thinking of others. If you know someone in one of these situations, they may need your support.

Kids and the Holiday and the Affect on our Stress and Anxiety Levels.

Kids are kids.

They get so excited during the holidays that it can be hard to contain. Cut them some slack. Remember who the adult is and who the kid is. By yelling, screaming, and making demands of a kid who’s wound up so tight they’re ready to pop and bounce all over the room, isn’t going to work.

Awareness and acceptance that kids can’t easily self regulate their moods or behavior means the adult is the one having to step up and keep things as calm as possible. This takes energy and patience but hopefully you can find a way. Check out the tips below.

Some Tips To Lessen Your Depression, Stress, and Anxiety Over the Holidays

Tip #1

Concentrate on yourself and your mental health. If you’re overwhelmed, step back and reassess where you’re headed.

Are you beginning to slip down a scary slope into a dark place? It may be time to seek medical attention. There are medications that help or your doctor may be able to refer you to a counsellor or therapist.

Remember, your mental health affects every part of your life and feelings of sadness or spontaneous crying etc. may not go away on its own.

Tip #2

Don’t hesitate to delegate. The holidays and the over-the-top expectations that you place on yourself are too much. Know that you don’t need to do it all. Get help. Hire help. Inform you nephew that he’s cooking the turkey this year.

Share the work. Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.

** And you’re NOT allowed to go and “fix” anything that is done differently and/or not to your expectation…. Let it go.

Tip #3

Lay off the booze .

Source: Unsplash Brooke Lark

Remember that alcohol is a depressant. This means that though you may feel ‘happy’ as you drink, the next day after the affects have worn off, you’re left with anxiety and feeling down. It’s not worth it.

Alcohol will leave you dehydrated, down, and deflated. More info HERE

Along with ditching the alcohol, try and keep your eating schedule and meals as normal and healthy as possible. Steer clear of the sugar to avoid those energy crashes, and make sure you get something nutritious to fuel your body and brain. Don’t forget to drink your water. Lots of water.

Tip #4

Get some fresh air, exercise and sunshine.

It’s amazing how healing a walk can be. It can loosen up the muscles and clear your head.

Go now and stick your head out the door and take a deep breath of fresh air.

Your body was made to move, so get going. It doesn’t have to be fast or far… just go. Dedicate yourself to ten minutes. It’s a start.

If there’s no sunlight, then a sun-lamp may help. Some people swear by light therapy for their Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Don’t forget your body needs Vitamin D to absorb the sunshine or light so you may need a supplement.

Tip #5

Change things up completely by volunteering your time and giving back.

Getting involved in a different setting and people, can offer some brain stimulation that distracts the sad thoughts. Giving back or helping others in some ways can spark some positive feelings within you.

Tip #6

Source: Unsplash SB Vonlanthen

For kids. See if you can start a new tradition with them before bed.

Instead of screens or anything active, get all ready for bed, turn out all the lights except the Christmas tree, and sit together and appreciate the lights.

Snuggle in on the couch together and keep your voices really soft. Remind the kids that it’s a time of just being one with the season. You can whisper about dreams or the beauty of the lights but it’s up to the adult to keep it calm and centered.

Make this a special time of quiet and calm. Make some memories and a new tradition. I hope it works for you.

And with kids… Refer back to Tip #3. Limit the sugar, treats, and late nights. Try and stick to a plan of bed time and healthy food.

Tip #7

Don’t ever assume that you know what someone else is going through. You have absolutely no idea.

Tip #8

Don’t judge someone’s mood as being anything snotty, angry, or directed at you.

Recognize that the holidays can be hard for anyone and take off your judgement cap. It’s not all about you.

Tip #9

Do what you can and leave the rest.

If you’re feeling depressed and overwhelmed then don’t feel like you need to force the whole Christmas agenda. Maybe make a small focal point in your home that is yours to enjoy (like a small tree or maybe some special ornaments with some twinkle lights) and leave the rest.

Source: Unsplash: Caleb Woods.

It’s okay to step back and request solitude–though you may be approached by family and friends out of concern. Read my article on Holiday Overload.

Tip #10

Seek some help prior to the holidays or emergency help during the holidays. There are help lines, suicide hot-lines, and emergency personnel at hospitals.

Click HERE to go to the Canadian Mental Health Support website and HERE for Provincial services.

If in USA click HERE for some resources or HERE for the US National Mental Health.

Auntie Lesson:

Stay in tune with where you are mentally. You’re not alone and there is help available. Be safe. Be You.

What Tip Do You Have For Anyone Suffering with Holiday Depression? Write it in the comments below and share your thougths.


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