Depression and the Holidays

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Here we are in January and the question on everyone’s mind is “What just happened” I mean it was a whirlwind that seemed to go by too fast. It’s bad enough that when you walk into any store, you have to automatically face holidays that are months away. You aren’t even sure what you are doing for dinner and now you have to figure out who you are going to spend Valentine’s Day with – and it’s not even Superbowl time yet. Is it any wonder we get to feel like our life is passing us by? Let’s take a look at holiday stress and see if we can find a solution. 

But Why??

It is true that any holiday season is supposed to be a joyous one. It is supposed to be a time to enjoy the season, spoil the ones you love, and eat foods that we don’t get all year. Valentine means chocolate, Easter means Peeps, and Memorial Day means cookouts – this is all good stuff, right? Ummm…did you forget that swimsuit season follows all this yummy stuff??

Reality is: you have to budget and spoiling your loved ones becomes an expense that makes your stomach hurt. It adds stress. Planning a party means stress. For most people, any holiday means that you are absorbing even more stress. 

If you are a parent, the stress of the holidays can be even more overwhelming. Not only do you have your child to worry about, but your child has class parties as well. A nice simple holiday becomes a time of overwhelming responsibilities. It can be too much for anyone to have to deal with. So, how are we supposed to get through the holidays without giving up the holidays? 

The other side of that is having to deal with the loss of loved ones. Everyday life may be easier to face than a holiday that seems to blare that your loved one isn’t there. It makes the absence of that person feel like a hole that you simply can’t feel. That loss can permeate through everything that you do. 

Sometimes, there isn’t a family to spend the holiday with. Every commercial, television show, and the ad is a reminder that you are alone.  Handling the stress of family events and party planning can be a great alternative over this empty loneliness. The truth is, the stress that society puts on us to make the holidays worth remembering can bring us to a breaking point that we didn’t even know that we had. 

You can Choose YOU

You can decide that your mental health matters. You do not have to stretch yourself so thin that you feel like you are going to break. You don’t have to sulk in sadness that you can’t spend the holidays the traditional way. You can choose to make it a day about you. You can choose to focus on what will make you happy. This is one way that self-care goes a long way. Self-care can look different for everyone. It may be ordering in the family meal. It may be organizing a potluck instead of a traditional dinner. It could be planning nothing and just taking it one day at a time. There is no one way to do self-care. Self-care is recognizing that you have to make a choice that you can handle. It means that you love yourself enough to tell the other people in your life that you can’t handle what they expect. You are your priority – and there is nothing wrong with that. 

10 Ways to Handle the Holidays

Now we are going to look at ten different ways that you can take those holiday blues and turn them around. Find one that works for you and don’t let anyone change your mind. 

  • Leave Family Politics Alone

Are your relatives constantly arguing? Do they want you to choose sides? You can choose not to. You can tell them politely that you are there to enjoy family and not to choose who you like best. It’s not high school, it’s family. They don’t want to leave well enough alone. Just walk away. Leave the room. If it comes to it, leave the event. You don’t have to accept the drama. You can be there for the family that you enjoy. Don’t miss out on your nieces and nephews growing up simply because you don’t want to be drug into the argument between your aunt and sister about whose advice is better. 

  • Focus on Positives 

This is probably one of the hardest things to do. It can feel like the negatives are overpowering you. So you have to constantly redirect your thoughts. Acknowledge the negative and then redirect it to a positive. This way the positive is constantly in front of you. 

  • Be You

Don’t try to impress others. Be yourself. Talk about what interests you. Wear clothing that reflects who you are. By being honest and open you allow yourself to shine through. That will keep you happy.

  • Recognize your Feelings

Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are down, stressed, or feeling like you don’t want to put yourself out there, acknowledge it. Talk to someone about it. Write it down. Addressing it will help you to understand why you feel the way you do and allow you to work through it. 

  • SLEEP

It is so easy to overlook this one. One of the most common reasons for depression is being tired. Our lives are so busy. It is easy to stay up to late binge-watching Netflix or scrolling through Facebook. Then we have to get up at our usual hour and get to our normal day. That can leave us feeling tired and sluggish. 

  • Set Social Media Limits

Social media is sometimes our enemy. We see so many things telling us how we should feel, throwing things at us that might trigger our emotions, and even being overwhelmed with the intense nature of the holidays can make us depressed. The memory feature seems amazing – until it reminds us of what we lost. So, if you find that your mood is worse, stay off social media. 

  • Reach out

Talk to someone. You don’t have to talk to family or friends. There are hotlines out there designed just to help you to talk through your emotions. This can help you to get a handle on how you feel and allow you to voice what is eating at you. You will feel relieved that you have a voice and that you matter. 

  • Exercise

You may hate this idea. The gym may not be your favorite place. However, exercise can help stimulate endorphins that can make you feel good. You don’t have to do a huge workout. You can go for a walk around the block, spend fifteen minutes on the treadmill, stretch. You could dance it out. Turn on your favorite song and dance like no one is watching to just that song. You will be amazed at how much different you feel just from moving around and breaking a sweat. 

  • Plan a day for YOU

All the holiday things do get overwhelming. You may lose yourself in the shuffle. So, plan a day doing what you want to do. It doesn’t even have to be a full day. You can make it simple like ordering take out and watching a movie at home. You can do a full spa day. The point is to have a day enjoying who you are and pampering yourself. A little bit of self-care can recharge the soul and relieve stress better than you might think. It doesn’t have to cost anything at all. The whole goal is to make it a stress-free day. 

  • Don’t Over Commit

Do you feel like you are being pulled a hundred different ways? Maybe you have office parties, friend’s parties, and family responsibilities. You might want to do it all, but you are one person. Don’t try to do everything. Spending the weekend running from one place to another is exhausting. Can you even relax and enjoy a party if you are watching the time because you have to be somewhere else? Focus on quality and enjoying the people that are around you. That is what is important. Prioritize based on what is important to you and your family. If you can’t make a dish, go buy one. Don’t commit to cooking and spending that you can’t do. Can’t buy a dish? Offer to help clean up instead. 

The holidays should be fun. They should be a time for family. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and depressed, you have lost the meaning of it all. Let’s get back to the joy of each season and focusing on what is happening at the moment. Let go of all the bad that seems to come with rushing through it all. Focus on you. That is how you make it through the holidays.

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