Depression and the Holiday Season

Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and be bad for your health. Planning ahead and seeking support can help ward off stress and depression.

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests, stress, and depression. The holiday season presents a dizzy array of demands – cooking meals, shopping, baking, cleaning, and entertaining to name a few. And if the Coronavirus is spreading in your community, you may feel additional stress or you may be worrying about your loved one’s health.

With some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that comes with the holiday season.

Tips to Help with Holiday Stress and Depression

When stress is at its peak, it is hard to stop and regroup. It is best to try and prevent stress and depression in the first place especially if you know the holiday season took an emotional toll on you in the past.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings – If someone close to you has passed or you cannot be with loved ones for one or another reason, acknowledge that it is normal to feel sadness or grief. It is OK to take time to cry and express your feelings. You cannot force yourself to be happy just because it is the holiday season.
  2. Reach out – If you feel isolated or lonely, seek out a community that you can join. If you are feeling stressed during the holidays, it also may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Volunteering your time or doing something to help others is also a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic – The holidays do not have to be perfect or just the same as in previous years. Families change and grow, traditions often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives cannot come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures and videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. You can always find ways to celebrate.
  4. Set aside differences – Try and accept family members and friends as they are, even if they do not live up to your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time to discuss them, and be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something does not go to plan. Chances are they are also feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression.
  5. Stick to a budget – Before you do your holiday shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend and then stick to your budget. Do not try and buy happiness with extravagant gifts.
  6. Plan ahead – Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends, and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Plan your shopping list. This will help last-minute scrambling.
  7. 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 cannot attend every project or activity. If it is not possible to say no when your boss needs you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Do not abandon healthy habits – Do not let the holiday season become a free for all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so that you do not go overboard. Get plenty of sleep and include regular physical activity in your routine.
  9. Take a breather – Make time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy, and take a break by yourself, this can refresh you enough to be able to handle everything you may need to do.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it – Despite doing what you can, you may still find yourself feeling sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If you have been feeling like this for a while, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.

Take Control of the Holidays

Do not let the holidays become something you dread. Take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. 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.