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Ways to Cope With Holiday Depression


Girl on a bed looking at a tablet with holiday decorations around the room. | Image by martin-dm

For some, the holidays bring joy, nostalgic memories, and fun times with friends and family, however, for others, the holidays can bring sadness, anxiety, and depression.

The holiday season can be a reminder of a loved one who is no longer here, or cause anxiety while shopping for the perfect gift. Holiday depression creeps up and can deter a person affected from enjoying being in the present with the people they love.

The National Institute of Mental Health defines major depression as “a period of at least two weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and had a majority of specified symptoms, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth.”

In 2019 it was estimated that 19.4 million people in the United States, 18-years-old or older, had a major depressive episode. Females were more apt to have a depressive episode than males with adults between eighteen and twenty-five.

Coupling this data with the added responsibilities of the holidays like shopping, cooking, and other tasks required to get ready for the celebrations, this season can be overwhelming.

Those who suffer from depression during the holidays often do not acknowledge they are experiencing feelings of sadness. Realizing that feeling down is normal and it is okay to cry, feel anger, or hopeless is the first step in addressing depression. The holiday season does not always bring warm fuzzy feelings, and that is okay.

If you or someone you know has feelings of sadness that do not seem to be going away, it is important to reach out to someone for help. Talk with a trusted friend or family member. If there are feelings of isolation present, get involved in a community event or with a religious organization. Sometimes doing good for others will make you feel better and help lift the depression.

If you are setting unrealistic goals for yourself and others during the holiday season, remember that dinners, get-togethers, or special events do not have to be perfect. The reason for the holiday season is to spend time with friends and family that you love and appreciate.

Be flexible – if your typical holiday traditions cannot be observed, like putting up decorations or traveling to see family and friends, try hopping on a video call or sharing pictures. You may even find yourself starting new traditions.

Sometimes the pressure to spend a lot of money on gifts for loved ones brings unnecessary stress. Try setting a budget and sticking to it. Get crafty with others and make homemade Christmas gifts.  Not only will it save money, but it will also provide the chance to interact with others, providing a mood-booster and the opportunity for long-lasting memories to be made.

If you feel depressed during the holidays, it is important to keep your routine as normal as possible. If you regularly go to the gym, pray, or meditate, ensure to keep these practices throughout the holidays. If you are afraid of overindulging, have a healthy snack before going to the office Christmas party.

Is scrolling your social media timeline making you feel like crawling under the covers? Detach yourself from social media and spend less time scrolling. Dedicate some time to activities that will bring a smile to your face. Read a book, play with a pet, go for a walk, or take a relaxing bubble bath while putting your phone aside.

If nothing seems to make you feel better and you feel overwhelmed or weighed down by grief or depression, seek the help of a professional. The holidays do not have to be stressful if you plan, be patient, and seek positivity.

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