While the holiday season is regarded as “the most wonderful time of the year” by some, for others, this season can trigger stress, sadness and depression. Being with family can be difficult for some people, and for others it is perhaps an absence of family that feels especially present at this time. Holidays can also trigger feelings of financial stress, as well as feelings of guilt for those who are not able to provide as much as they wish they could for family or friends. The cold weather during the holiday season can also trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in many people, due to decreased sunlight and shorter days.Having depression over the holidays can also be an extremely isolating feeling, as there is very palpable social pressure to feel merry and festive during this time – a pressure only made worse by movies, TV and social media. This year is especially difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions keeping many of us isolated from friends and family. While we can’t wave a wand to rid ourselves of holiday depression, there are things we can do to help ourselves cope during this difficult time.
Here are some tips to help you cope with holiday depression:
Don’t isolate: Even if you have to be physically isolated due to COVID, don’t emotionally isolate yourself. If you are feeling down during the holidays, pick up the phone and call someone who you know will be there for you, someone who won’t judge you. Don’t feel like you have to pretend things are ok – share your feelings, let out your emotions. Chances are you will be reminded that you’re not alone in this.
Give someone a gift that doesn’t involve spending money: The pressure to buy elaborate gifts for people can be a huge stressor during the holidays, and in doing so we often forget that giving something from the heart can truly be a joyful experience. Instead of worrying about what to buy and how much to spend, give someone a gift that doesn’t cost money. Send a postcard to an older relative, make a photo album for an old friend, record a silly song and send it to someone to make them laugh…anything that feels personal and tells someone, “I’m thinking of you.” This kind of giving can be so much more rewarding and less stressful than typical gift-buying.
Do something nice for yourself: During the holidays, we are so focused on giving to other people that we tend to forget to give to ourselves. 2020 has been stressful, and this holiday is the perfect time to ask yourself what YOU want. This doesn’t have to be an actual gift – although you deserve to buy yourself something nice too! Allow yourself to take a sick day from work just to watch movies, take a long bath, drive to the beach and enjoy the sunset all by yourself…anything that will fill your cup.
Learn to say no: Holidays can be a time of over-planning and over-engaging, and feeling like you have to please everyone by accepting every holiday invitation can be extremely stressful. Remind yourself that it is ok to decline invitations that do not serve you – either if you do not have time or simply do not want to attend. Remember to put your own mental health first during this season, and sometimes that will involve telling others “no.”
Create new traditions: If typical holiday traditions involving family gatherings, large meals and gift-giving have not been a good experience in your life, there is no need to continue with these old rituals. Create your own holiday traditions that incorporate your own likes and values, and in doing so, give yourself something that you can actually look forward to every year.