For many, the holidays can be just as stressful as they are fun and festive. The season comes with high expectations of fun and meaningful connections, but can be difficult with outside stressors or family conflicts. If you’re prone to or are experiencing clinical depression, it’s important to take care of your mental health this holiday season and prevent a depressive episode or worsening of symptoms. Keep reading for our advice on dealing with depression during the holidays.
Tips to Avoid Depression During the Holidays
Family can provide a unique sense of belonging and comfort, and the holidays give us the opportunity to get together with them for exactly that. However, it can also put you together with family members that bring up unhappy memories, triggers, and traumas. If you’re going through personal difficulties as well, being around unsupportive family members can worsen depression symptoms.
Here are some ways you can manage your mental health and cope with depression during this time of year:
- Plan ahead. Planning ahead allows you to prioritize events that matter most to you, avoid overbooking, and make sure you have some downtime for your own sake. This can look like having shopping done early, premaking food, etc.
- Don’t be afraid to step away. If there’s a family member that causes you excessive stress, plan to limit your time at events where he or she is sure to make an appearance.
- Agree to a family truce. If old arguments resurface, make plans to talk about your conflict after the holidays or agree to table the topic. If this isn’t attainable, know when to leave a conversation when things can trigger you.
- Have compassion for yourself. Remember that your feelings and thoughts are valid and that how other people make you feel isn’t your fault. If you’re having a hard time during the holidays, you have the right to do what it takes to make the days easier for yourself.
Depression vs. The Holiday Blues
For a lot of people, it’s normal to feel a sense of sadness during the holiday season. It’s easy to feel down around certain people you don’t feel supported by and places that don’t feel comfortable or safe. And as the media tends to portray the holidays as idealistic, you can feel sad or disappointed when reality doesn’t compare. If you feel this way, you aren’t alone, and you could be impacted by the holiday blues. However, if the holidays pass and you’re still feeling down, it could be something more.
If you find that the steps you’re taking to relieve stress after the holidays aren’t working or you don’t have the energy to help yourself, you might be experiencing more than the holiday blues. It is possible that you’re dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD, or “seasonal depression” is a form of depression that tends to affect people’s moods during the colder months and lessen once spring and summer come back around.
It is also possible that you are dealing with clinical depression. Symptoms of depression can include:
- Persistent sadness or anxiety
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, helpless, guilty, etc.
- Being pessimistic or negative
- Quick to irritability or frustration
- Disinterest in hobbies or activities that used to bring joy
- Finding it hard to concentrate or remember
- Difficulty making decisions
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Significant changes in appetite and/or weight
- Unexplainable and persistent headaches, aches, or digestive problems
- Suicide attempts or thoughts of death or suicide
If you’ve had these symptoms for over two weeks, you may be experiencing a depressive episode. While environmental factors like financial stress or the loss of a loved one can trigger a depressive episode, depression is a physical illness, and the negative feelings that accompany it can’t be fixed with self-care and resources alone. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. To learn more about depression care and options you can take to get help, click the link below.
The holidays are a complicated time for a lot of people. You are not alone in this. We hope these tips can make this time of year a bit more enjoyable, and if you think you’re in need of depression treatment, please connect with us today and get the support you deserve.