10 Ways To Fight Holiday Depression

Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for some of us, it’s the most depressing. If you’re eight years old and dreaming of all the great gifts Santa will leave for you on Christmas morning, you’re all aquiver with anticipation.

If you’re a parent who’s been laid off at work and can barely pay this month’s rent, much less buy presents, the holiday may look pretty bleak.

It’s easy to feel stressed out and overwhelmed by the demands of the holiday season, so it’s no wonder that some of us suffer from crippling depression during this time of the year. Here are a few ways to fight off the holiday blues.

Have realistic expectations.
Many of us are tempted to idealize the holiday season and expect everything to be happy and perfect.

Maybe you had an especially wonderful Christmas in the past and keep hoping that each year will live up to your memories. Since you’re sure to be disappointed, try making some new traditions of your own. If you’re feeling lonely because family members are far away, share the holidays via Skype, FaceTime or social media. If you can’t watch your grandkids open their presents in person, at least you can take part in the festivities on your computer or smartphone.

Reach out to others.
If you’re feeling down because you have no one to share the holidays with you, try using your time to help others. Find out if a food bank in your neighborhood needs volunteers for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The recent cuts in SNAP programs mean that more needy families will be looking to food banks this year, so they’re going to need extra help. Missions and soup kitchens also need volunteers to help them feed those in need, so your help will be appreciated. Being around others will help you feel less lonely and isolated, plus you’ll feel good about helping others.

Don’t try to buy happiness.
The holiday shopping season, which used to begin the day after Thanksgiving, now starts as soon as Halloween is over. A two-month orgy of materialism can convince consumers that they must spend money they don’t have on gifts, clothes and other goodies. If you’re already stressed out over financial problems, the last thing you need is to run up more bills that you’ll have to face come January. Winnow your gift list down to the few you really want to treat and look for ways to buy presents that are within your budget. Why not make your own homemade jams, cookies or brownies? If you can’t cook, look for discount prices on bottles of wine for the grownups on your list. Inventive gifts don’t have to be expensive.

Reconnect with friends.
You’re not the only person who gets lonely over the holidays. You probably have old friends who would be happy to hear from you, so check them out. Use social media to reconnect with old classmates, friends, neighbors or co-workers. You may find a kindred spirit who will invite you over for holiday gatherings where you can get out and meet new people, or at least another single to join you for dinner at a restaurant.

The holiday season can be a wonderful time for most but some people find it very difficult to deal with all of the celebrating and happiness around them.  Keep reading for more tips on how to make the holiday season a happy time.

Avoid negativity.
Your family can be a tremendous source of comfort in troubled times—or the main reason you’re depressed in the first place. If your family is pressuring you to spend a fortune coming home for the holidays, where you will be drilled, grilled and shamed over your choices in life—don’t go. Make up an excuse, like an emergency at work or a sudden case of swine flu (any highly contagious disease will work). When you’re already feeling down in the dumps, don’t hang out with people who will just throw more dirt on you.

Don’t overindulge.
It’s always easy to use the holidays as an excuse to gorge on food and imbibe too heavily at parties. We all deserve to relax and have a little fun, but don’t use having the holiday blues as a reason to sit around the house stuffing your face with sweet treats or downing an entire bottle of wine. Try to maintain your usual healthy eating and exercise habits over the holidays. Waking up on New Year’s morning with a hangover, only to find that your jeans don’t fit, is not a good way to start 2014.

Treat yourself.
While you should not use the holidays as an excuse to gain ten pounds or max out your credit cards, a little treat now and then can lift your spirits. If you miss the decorations your folks used to put up, why not hit the discount store and pick up a few strings of lights and glittery garlands to dress up your home? If nobody invites you over for Thanksgiving dinner, go out to a nice restaurant and treat yourself to a delicious meal that you don’t have to cook.

Don’t force yourself to act happy.
If you’ve had a recent loss, it’s OK to feel sad and work through your grief. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings—and don’t allow others to make you feel guilty that you’re not ready to celebrate yet. If you just can’t cope this year and need to lay low, do it. Sometimes you have to hibernate, at least for a little while.

Do something silly.
If you have nowhere to go on Christmas Eve, buy a pizza and some microwave popcorn, then plop down in front of the TV for a holiday movie marathon. Laugh at Ralphie’s struggle to get that Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, then cry when George Bailey learns that no one is a failure if he has friends. Sing along with Bing and be happy that you’re not Clark Griswold dealing with his crazy family for two whole weeks.

Know when to seek help.
If your holiday doldrums have taken a turn into dangerous territory, it’s time to look into professional help. If you’re having thoughts of suicide, unable to get out of bed or just can’t shake your feelings of sadness and gloom, you definitely should be seeking medical attention. While you may be reluctant to tell your doctor what you’ve been going through, getting the help you need could make future holidays much happier!

Written on 12/18/2013 by Linda Cauthen.

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