Tips For Dealing With Holiday Depression
The holiday season can be difficult for many due to stress, financial strain, loneliness, and mental health conditions like depression or bipolar disorder. If you are feeling stressed about an upcoming holiday event, there are a few things you can do to help yourself:
- Try to stay present and focus on the moment.
- Set realistic expectations for the event, and don't put too much pressure on yourself.
- Plan by talking to a friend and arranging to meet up or call each other afterward.
- Remind yourself that the event won't last forever and that it's just one day.
You can also set an intention to do something that helps you de-stress and relax, such as taking a walk or spending time on a hobby.
What Depression Around The Holiday Season Can Look Like
During this time of year, some individuals may experience what is commonly known as the "holiday blues". They may find it difficult to cope with additional stress or feeling overwhelmed. It's essential to understand that this is not the same as experiencing symptoms of depression or a condition like major depressive disorder. Only a trained mental health professional can accurately diagnose these conditions.
During winter months, people in parts of the world with limited sunlight may experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is another form of depression.
It's important to note that Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) share similar symptoms, which can be triggered or aggravated by common stressors during this time of year. While holiday blues may also cause some of these symptoms, they are usually less severe and shorter-lived compared to the symptoms of these two types of depression.
Here are some signs of depression:
- Social withdrawal
- Irritability and mood swings
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- The inability to get joy from activities once enjoyed
It's important to note that feeling down during the holidays is different than experiencing a mental health condition such as depression or SAD. However, if you're struggling with difficult emotions during this time, seeking help from a mental health professional can be beneficial in managing and addressing these feelings.
Possible Causes Of Depression Around The Holidays
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 64% of people with pre-existing mental health conditions experience a worsening of their symptoms during the holiday season. This can be due to the stress or loneliness of this time of year, which may also trigger the onset of certain conditions, such as depression. If you are feeling down during the holidays, suspect you may have depression, or feel that your existing depression has worsened lately, there may be several factors unique to this season that are contributing.
People who had traumatic experiences during the holidays in the past may be currently reliving or experiencing emotions related to those times. Additionally, those who have lost family members with whom they used to spend holidays may also face difficult emotions during this season.
The holiday season can be challenging due to unrealistic expectations fueled by movies, social media, and picture-perfect holiday cards. It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves and our lives to those of others, especially when it seems like everyone around us is having a perfect and joyful time. However, this constant comparison can negatively impact our mental health, regardless of how true or not the image of an ideal holiday is.
The holiday season can be a stressful time for many individuals. A hectic schedule full of holiday activities, traveling or hosting guests, buying gifts, managing financial demands, dealing with family conflicts, and other aspects of the season can become overwhelming and lead to burnout. Additionally, a lack of proper sleep, exercise, or a poor diet due to busyness can have negative effects on one's mental health. Stress can also aggravate the symptoms of a mental disorder. For instance, bipolar disorder can be triggered by stressful circumstances or situations.
The holiday season can be particularly challenging for individuals who lack family, community, or other social connections to spend this time with. Whether they are separated from or have lost their loved ones, live far away from them and are unable to travel due to health, financial, or physical limitations, or are facing loneliness for some other reason, being alone during this time of the year can have a detrimental impact on one's mental health.
Tips For Managing Depression During The Holidays
Therapy For Depression
It's important to understand that seeking treatment from a mental health professional is highly recommended if you suspect you may have a mental health condition such as depression. Therapy is a common component of the treatment plan for conditions such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, and many others.
You should always seek treatment in the way that makes you feel most comfortable. If you're interested in online therapy, Omni Help can match you with a licensed therapist that you can meet with virtually. This mental health professional can provide you with tips and resources to help you navigate a stressful holiday season or manage a mental health condition like depression.
Research has shown that online therapy can provide similar benefits to in-person sessions, and it can be a convenient option for some people.
During the holiday season, it is essential to set boundaries with your family and friends to protect your mental health. While it is generally not advisable to isolate yourself when you experience depression, it may be helpful to decline invitations to gatherings, parties, or travel that can make you feel uncomfortable or stressed.
You can also establish boundaries regarding the topics of discussion you won't engage with when spending time with family members whom you disagree with. Remember that you have the right to do what is best for your mental health during this time of year, even if it does not meet other people's expectations.
Maintaining healthy habits like getting enough sleep, consuming a balanced diet, and engaging in physical exercise can be challenging for individuals suffering from depression. However, research indicates that adopting these practices can be beneficial for their mental health and help manage depression. In fact, various studies have found a correlation between a healthy diet and a reduced risk of depression symptoms. Moreover, exercise has shown to alleviate depression symptoms.
If you find that your depression is hindering your ability to engage in self-care activities, seeking help from a therapist can offer alternative solutions. You can also consider finding a friend to go for regular walks with or try meditation techniques to enhance your sleep quality. By establishing healthy habits, you can steer clear of unhealthy coping mechanisms such as excessive drinking, which can exacerbate holiday depression.
When it comes to holidays, some people may have unpleasant memories or difficulty coping with the loss of a loved one they used to spend holidays with. While sticking to traditions may help some, others may find it more helpful to create entirely new ones. For example, you could consider participating in a Friendsgiving dinner with your chosen family instead of your biological family. To form new associations and alleviate difficult feelings or memories, think about the parts of the holiday that you don't enjoy and brainstorm alternative activities.
Kindness With Yourself
The holiday season can be a challenging time for many people, and it's okay if you feel that way. There are high expectations, commercialization, and even conflicts or tough emotions that can make it a stressful time. It's common to feel like you're "doing it wrong" if you're not experiencing a joyous holiday, but it's essential to remind yourself that it's okay to have difficult feelings during this time of year.
If you feel overwhelmed, remember to be kind and patient with yourself. There is no right or wrong way to experience the holidays, and it's understandable to find them stressful, sad, or difficult. It's essential to take care of yourself and seek support if you need it to manage hard feelings or more serious mental health conditions like depression during this time.
The holiday season can be a challenging and stressful time for many individuals. If you are worried that what you are experiencing during this time might be a symptom of depression, the advice provided in this list can assist you in taking care of yourself and managing your depression symptoms. If you feel like you require assistance, our mental health professionals are available to support you.