The holidays are meant to be a time of joy and festivity. Regardless of one’s beliefs, the season is a time of celebration, friendship, and family. It can also be a time that carries with its own unique challenges, which will this year be increased again because of COVID-19. We are now in our second year of the pandemic and social distancing. This holiday season might be even more difficult than the first since we all thought we’d be “back to normal” by now.
Even without a pandemic, the holidays are often difficult on our mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64 percent of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. The holidays bring stressors such as busier schedules, family obligations, and increased financial expenses. Also, the number of people suffering from depression increases during the winter. This is due to individuals who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), often called seasonal depression. Here are some tips that could help if you find yourself struggling with depression during the holidays.
The holiday season is often a busy time, and quality sleep is something that can easily be neglected. Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. This is why rest is vital, especially if you are experiencing depressive symptoms. Here are some tips from the CDC for better sleep:
- Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
- Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smartphones, from the bedroom
Practice social distancing, not isolation
For many, spending time with friends and loved ones is an integral part of how the holidays are spent. However, the pandemic has limited the scope of our usual celebrations. Many are not able to see their loved ones and are forced to spend the holidays alone. While social distancing is still necessary, continued isolation has negative repercussions for mental health. Prolonged periods of solitude and withdrawal from friends and family exacerbate the symptoms of depression. However, keeping in contact with loved ones throughout the holiday season can fend off feelings of loneliness. Sending a quick text, making a short call just to say, or other small ways of staying connected can increase a sense of hope and belonging. You won’t just be helping yourself, but the people who you care about, too.
Allow space for grieving and morning
Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends
Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smartphones, from the bedroom
The holidays can be an especially difficult time for those who have lost a loved one. In addition to loss, feelings of guilt for enjoying the holidays, or anger at the deceased, can manifest. In a related article, Deborah Jonsson, public relations manager at Avow Hospice, in Collier County, Florida, says “All feelings are a sign that you’re human and reflect where you are in your healing process.” Something that might help you feel closer to your loved ones who are gone is to find ways to celebrate their memory and the time you had together.
Limit social media
Social media can amplify the pressures of the holidays. People tend to only post photos of their “perfect” moments. Scrolling through endless images that others have carefully chosen can generate feelings of depression, inadequacy, and competitiveness. Pressure can mount to keep up with others, to demonstrate that we are having just as much fun as everyone else. If you find yourself falling into this trap, try putting your phone down or logging off. Don’t base your expectations for the holidays on the appearances that others present. Make an effort to remember some things you are grateful for.
Accept the “new normal”
This is the second holiday season affected by COVID-19. A lot has changed in our holiday celebrations, and it’s easy to feel that something has been lost. Some traditions have had to change, while others have simply disappeared. These feelings can be potential triggers for depression. It is normal to feel disappointed about the limitations to our festivities. However, this doesn’t have to rob joy from the holidays. If you find yourself struggling to connect to be enthusiastic, focus on the traditions that you can maintain despite the difficulties of the pandemic. Don’t be hard on yourself if you find it difficult to get in the “spirit” of the season.
These tips can help you cope with holiday depression, however, it might also be helpful to speak to a therapist or a mental health care provider. If you suffer from depression or other mental illnesses, it is important to be mindful of your symptoms. If you find that the holidays are escalating the severity of your symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek mental health services.