As the holiday season gets into full swing, you may not be feeling as cheerful and festive these days as some of your friends and family members. Money problems or personal issues can dampen even the brightest of outlooks.
In fact, for some people, the holidays end up being a time of sadness and even stress-filled days. If you don’t live close to family members or don’t have anyone to celebrate the season with, the holiday season can sometimes be downright depressing. That’s when the symptoms of chronic depression, anxiety and other negative feelings can rear their ugly heads.
Add the cold and dreary days of winter to the mix, and you may not be in the mood to do anything close to celebrating.
Still, there are some ways to stay positive and even enjoy the season. Here are six effective ways to cope with depression during the holidays:
1. Don’t band-aid the problem
Don’t let negative emotions drive unhealthy habits, such as endless (and mindless) shopping sprees, binge eating episodes, or excessive drinking sessions. Instead, refrain from engaging in any extreme behaviors that will only cause you additional mental, financial, or physical stress down the road. If you’re dealing with tough situations, take breaks, if only to clear your head and give yourself a little distance from stressful scenarios, people or environments.
2. Reach out for support
If close friends and family members have no idea what you’re going through, and you don’t feel you can clue them in on your troubles, look outside of your social circles and family for help. Seek out the help of a professional counselor or therapist so that you can talk about what you’re feeling. Your counselor can help you figure out what might have triggered your case of the “holiday blues” and give you a fresh perspective on situations that are making you feel sad.
3. Plan ahead
Feeling overwhelmed because you didn’t plan ahead or suddenly have too much on your plate can trigger stress and lead to depression. If you’re feeling “on edge” or anxious because there’s so much to do, start prioritizing and planning so you can take care of only the most important tasks. Taking the time to plan can make it easier to handle those hectic days ahead and might even keep depression at bay.
4. Talk to a trusted spiritual adviser
If difficult relationships with family members are making you angry, stressed, or depressed, seek out the help of a spiritual adviser to talk about your issues. Bottling up those emotions can backfire and make you feel even angrier or hostile. Many religious counselors have seen and heard it all. So don’t worry about shocking them or having them judge you. Just be honest about how you’re feeling so that your minister, clergy member or another trustworthy spiritual confidante can help you deal with any immediate problems and possibly help resolve the source of your anxiety or depression.
5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Skimping on sleep and eating unhealthy food can make this difficult time that much harder to cope with and successfully survive. So make sure you’re getting plenty of shuteye each night and eating well-balanced meals. If possible, try to also squeeze in a few workouts each week to take your mind off things and to promote overall physical well-being. Vigorous exercise will also release endorphins, lifting your overall mood as well.
6. Be realistic
Nobody has a “perfect” holiday and you may need to accommodate for some changes in your usual family traditions or rituals. Keep an open mind and don’t set your expectations too high. If you’re feeling tension between family members or things just aren’t working as planned, be willing to change direction and even try something new. Find ways to just enjoy your time together and make the most of it.
Even if mild or severe depression starts to kick in during the holidays, keep telling yourself that the situation isn’t permanent and neither are your feelings. If things get really bad, and you feel like you want to hurt yourself, do reach out to the toll-free hotline offered by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Otherwise, if all the December festivities occurring around you specifically triggered your case of the holiday blues, take comfort in knowing that – in all likelihood – your sad or negative emotions will pass after New Year’s Day has come and gone.