20 Tips To Help You Manage Depression During The Holidays!
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Not to cause panic or anything but we officially have two weeks left until Christmas! I'm still trying to figure out what happened to the rest of 2022.
Of course we know the holiday times can be stressful but have you noticed your depression worsening too? The holidays are typically thought of as a joyful time of the year, but for those with depression and anxiety it can be anything but joyful. Over the past few years I've had to find ways to manage my depression during the holidays and rediscover the magic of the season. Here are 20 Tips to Help You Manage Depression During The Holidays and find a little joy while doing it!
According to the National Alliance On Mental Illness, "64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worsen" - NAMI, 2014
So whats up with the worsening depression during the holidays?
If you are already in the midst of depression often times there is little motivation to do much. Depression makes everything look so gray and pointless. Literally sucks the joy right out of you. Lets not forget to mention the infamous depression fatigue! Its like you barely have enough energy to keep up with adulting so finding the mental space to get excited about the holidays is asking for a lot. Still there are some common reasons the holidays tend to worsen depression:
1) Loneliness: The holidays can be especially rough if you will be spending them alone. Depression will have you thinking you are unwanted and no one cares.
2) Family: There are several reasons family can be a trigger for worsening depression. Families that tend to be toxic, have lots of expectations, carry on family secrets, or always have some sort of family drama can leave you trying to recover well after the holidays.
We often try to hide our depression and declining mental state from our families. The idea of being around them during the holidays can be quite triggering. You might not want to feel like a disappointment or burden to others. Depression almost feels like a dirty secret that we have to hide. Its easier to keep up the I'm fine façade through text or social media. Its a little more difficult and tasking to do so in person.
There were many times I would look around the room and feel completely disconnected from everyone and out of place.
3) Finances!!! Its no secret the holidays can be expensive. The expectations of purchasing gifts, traveling, and keeping up with our everyday financial responsibilities can suck the joy right out of the holidays. If you were already experiencing financial hardships the holidays can bring on feelings of failure and disappointment. Not cool. Unfortunately the holidays have become so commercialized it outshines the true reason for the season.
4) The BIG one...Grief! The holidays can be extremely difficult if you have lost a loved one. The first couple of years after my sister passed, I cried and isolated myself the entire week leading up to Christmas. No more Christmas traditions together, no more morning Merry Christmas text to one another. The holidays can be a reminder of our most tragic losses. This without a doubt can lead to trouble coping and worsening depression.
So, here's my advice for managing depression during the holidays and hopefully finding a little joy while doing it!
1) If loneliness during the holidays worsens your depression try these:
Volunteer with an organization to help others and meet new people.
Treat yourself to a Christmas Vacation. Book a cruise or Travel somewhere you've always wanted to visit.
Facetime Family and Friends.
2) If family is a trigger for your depression:
Plan an exit strategy. If your mood begins to change or you begin to experience negative emotions, or hell everyone is just getting on your nerves have an exit plan already in place.
Set a time limit. This one is very helpful if you experience panic or anxiety attacks. Before attending an event or even going somewhere like taking my teenage daughter shopping its known I'm done after two hours. That's my limit! Through mindfulness I am well aware at the one hour and 45 minutes mark this chick is going start feeling the onset of a panic attack.
Coping Tools: Bring something to help you cope like a book or headphones to listen to music. (Airpods are great because they are discrete)
Create new holiday traditions. We can't change people but we can protect ourselves by limiting our exposure to the negative ones. It might be time to start creating new traditions with friends and healthy family members.
Stay home. If your family tends to be negative and toxic stay home. Your mental health is the priority and its okay to pass on the family function.
Communicate. If depression is your secret please talk to a close trusted friend or family member. No one should bare this burden alone.
3) If finances are a common trigger for your depression during the holiday season:
Stay home and Facetime family instead. The cost of flights and rentals are through the roof this year. If traveling is going to cause financial distress it might be better to stay home.
Use companies that allow for flexible payments: If you really want to buy gifts for loved ones then companies like Afterpay and Klarna will be your best friend. So far this Christmas I have used Afterpay for about 90% of my purchases. (This is not a sponsorship and I have no affiliation with either company.) I have been using Afterpay for two years and its a great service. We are a middle class family with four kids so the ability to split our purchases into four payments allows for flexibility that reduces our stress levels. You're able to purchase gifts while avoiding major hits to your budget.
Plan ahead and start saving early. Try using a budget planner to help stay on track.
Start new traditions that are less costly. Make gifts.
4) If you struggle with grief during the holidays:
Allow yourself the time and space to grieve
Know that it's okay to be joyful during the holidays. You're loved one would appreciate seeing you smile again.
Spend the holidays with family and friends. This can provide much needed emotional support. Being surrounded by loved ones and engaged in holiday activites can also be a helpful distraction.
Find ways to incorporate you're loved one into the holidays. For instance, picking a Christmas tree ornament that they would have loved or reminds you of them. This way they'll always be apart of your Christmas.
Go crazy on the self care.
Practice Self Awareness. Be sure to play close attention to your mood, behaviors, and thoughts. Reach out if you need help
Now the most important piece of advice ........
Remember these are your holiday too and you deserve to enjoy them. Seriously, do things that bring you joy and if you're not sure what that is become a kid again! Did you always want to try ice skating? Find a park and try it. Maybe binge watch your favorite holiday movies with Hot chocolate and popcorn. Whats a gift you wanted as a child but never got? Get it! Check out a Christmas Play. Drive around and see the lights. Go crazy in the Hobby Lobby with the Christmas decorations. The list goes on!
Listen, depression will have you miserable and hopeless if you don't find a way to snatch your joy. What better time than Christmas? This is a season of hope! The hope and light that was given to us in a Bethlehem manger. Fearlessly and unapologetically take your joy!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!🎄🎁
Before you leave I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.