The holidays for most people are a time of joy and happiness, but for those dealing with depression it can be a time of heightened sadness and anxiety. Christmas festivities can add additional stress to one’s life, from the financial pressure of buying gifts to the anxiety that comes from having more interaction with family and entertaining. This extra pressure that comes with holidays can often be a trigger for those with depression. The emphasis on family can also make those suffering with depression feel lonely and isolated.
Luckily there are steps you can take to prepare yourself and help manage any depression that comes your way this holiday season. If you suffer from depression you can still find that Christmas cheer.
1. Plan Ahead
Sit down and figure out how you’re going to take care of yourself this holiday season. There’s such an emphasis on pleasing everyone else that people often neglect themselves. Plan activities that make you happy. That can be readings or taking a walk alone or a group activity that you enjoy like watching your favorite holiday movie.
Whatever helps you cope with your depression and stress make sure you schedule time for it. Don’t let the holiday preparations and events derail these things. If taking time for yourself makes you feel selfish think of it as a gift you’re giving yourself and your family. A happy, engaged you benefits everyone in your life.
2. Avoid Family Conflicts
Family can be a huge trigger for many people. Everyone has that one family member that refuses to let certain topics go un-discussed. Whether it’s religion, politics or even your mental health, family conflicts can arise during the holidays. If you know certain family members are always a trigger for you try to avoid them. Even if you’re at the same event that doesn’t mean you have to talk to them. A polite ‘hello’ and ‘Merry Christmas’ can go a long way.
If you can’t avoid a conflict or controversial topic, come up with some good neutral responses such as “let’s discuss this later”. Excuse yourself and busy yourself with another activity. Play with the kids or help in the kitchen. Just because they’re your family doesn’t mean you have to (or are going to) agree on everything. Accept that there will be differences and conflicts and do your best to avoid and cope with them. If it becomes too much excuse yourself and call a trusted friend.
3. Forget Pinterest Perfection
Nothing is going to be perfect. Accepting that early on can really help your mental health. For some people seeing the perfection that other people have seemingly achieved online can make them feel worthless or hopeless. It doesn’t do you any good to compare yourself to others though. Perfection isn’t achievable and how something appears online or in pictures isn’t always reality.
Make a list of the things that are really important to you and your family and focus on those. Focus more on activities and time with the people you love rather than things or aesthetic.
4. Don’t Forget to Sleep
Even during the holidays, sticking to your usual schedule can do a lot to helping your depression. Make sure you get enough sleep- catching a few extra hours can be beneficial if work usually prevents this. There’s been proven to be a link between sleep loss and depression so don’t skimp on sleep to do other activities.
5. Get Help
If you’re suffering from depression you might not want to reach out and “ruin” other people’s holidays. Chances are though that your friends and family only care about being there for you. If you need help reach out. Don’t worry about dampening their holiday joy- more than likely they’ll spread it your way!
If you don’t have any friends or family near by schedule an appointment with your mental health doctor or psychiatrist. Or if they’re closed or gone for the holidays there are multiple support outlets over the phone or online available to you. You’re not alone.
6. Embrace the Sunlight
Sunlight exposure can do wonders to helping your depression. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is common during the winter months and can easily be combated with a walk in the sun. Even if it’s freezing outside, open up those blinds and read under a cozy blanket in the sunlight.
7. Cut Back on Commitments
There’s a huge pressure during the holidays to see everyone and attend everything. This obligation to be social can be extremely stressful for those suffering from depression. Prioritize what matters and don’t feel the need to go to everything. Most people will understand if you can’t attend dinners or parties.