It’s the most wonderful time of the year… well, it’s slightly sad to say it’s not for everyone.
While beautiful images of love and joy fill storefronts, magazine pages and blogs, for many people, the reality of the holidays images isn’t so cheerful. Between stressful end of year deadlines, family dysfunction and possibly loss, poor eating and drinking habits, and increasingly cold and dark winter days, it’s easy for the holiday season to feel not so very merry and bright or much welcome.
The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests, stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying demands such as parties, shopping, baking, entertaining and dreadful cleaning. Constant reminders of others’ happy seasons can additionally serve as a painful reminder of the happiness and love that’s lacking in our own lives. For this reason, the month of December can be a particularly difficult time of year for those dealing with family conflict, loss, break-ups, divorce, loneliness and mental health issues.
But here’s something to cheer us all up the next time we happen to be stuck in a room of revelers at a holiday party, perhaps plenty of them are probably unhappy, too.
- Do something new & different. Begin a new tradition. Plan a family outing or vacation instead of spending the holidays at home.
- Don’t succumb to holiday pressures. Feel free to leave an event if you aren’t comfortable and be willing to tell others, “I’m not up for this right now.” Sorry! 🙁
- Volunteer. Work at a soup kitchen, organize a gift drive or simply help the neighbor dig the snow out of his driveway.
- Getting back to nature. Going for a walk in the park or the woods clears the mind and possibly helps many people who are feeling overwhelmed to feel better.
- Try to stay away from the alcohol that’s flowing freely this time of year. Very simply, alcohol is a depressant. It’s the last thing you need. It may relieve the pain for a little while, but you’ll probably end up feeling sad and much more depress. Don’t look for relief in alcohol or drugs. Although it can be tempting to “take the edge off” at holiday events, alcohol and drugs can make anxiety worse and may trigger panic attacks.
- If you can afford to, arrange to take a vacation during Christmas. Go somewhere tropical or where Christmas isn’t celebrated, and just avoid the whole thing. You can use the excuse of getting ready for your vacation as a way to avoid social commitments.
Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression
- When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
- Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently passed away or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- Choose to say no. Try not to overschedule yourself during the holiday season. You don’t have to feel obligated to accept every invitation, and you may want to eliminate some traditions that cause you more stress than joy.
- Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
- Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
- Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
Alternatives to try
- Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
- Give homemade gifts.
- Start a family gift exchange.
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free for all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
- Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
- Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Getting a massage.
- Reading a book.
- And last but not least, seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Take control of the holidays
Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays. I know and understand because I have been there and faced all that. Each and every year I learn and adapt to the very best possible scenarios presented to me each and every time. Looking back … I have walked these long paths . . . ! 🙂
What are the tips, advise or things you might do to prevent yourself from getting holiday anxiety and possible depression?
Bonjour Monday! 🙂