During this time of year, radio and tv ads would have us believe we should all feel merry and bright. After all, it’s the “most wonderful time of the year” right? We need to just suck it up and be happy because that’s what is expected of us during this time of year.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. According to the National Institute of Health, many people experience depression during the holiday season.
In fact, there are a variety of reasons you may be feeling down this time of year and all are valid reasons. Perhaps you have lost a loved one (or more than one) and miss them greatly. Perhaps you are not able to be with your family (due to location or other factors). Many people feel incredibly lonely during the holidays. Whether it’s from being single, recently divorced, or having just lost a loved one, the holidays are often a reminder of what we don’t have but wish we did.
Perhaps you want to give your kids the best of all worlds, but you just can’t afford to “keep up with the Jones’s”. ‘Tis the season to be holly, unless your bank account is overdrawn and your credit cards maxed out. Not having a budget to buy loved ones presents, especially our children can feel devastating.
Perhaps it’s just being completely overwhelmed with life in general and there’s more to do now with shopping, travel, vising people, baking, etc. It’s easy to become overwhelmed from the added stress of shopping, planning and travel. Studies have found this is particularly true for women.
When we force ourselves to appear happy when we’re not, it is very draining. You may find that you lose patience easier. You may find that you tire more quickly. It literally takes extra energy to force yourself to smile and appear animated and joyful than just even keel.
Whereas I understand from a financial standpoint, I personally think it’s a bit overdone when stores start putting out holiday decorations before Halloween. If you struggle with depression during the holidays, that means over two months of feeling crappy when you “should” be feeling happy. That’s a very long time to put on a face and appear happy.
I WANT TO ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS BUT I FEEL MISERABLE AND IT’S DRIVING ME NUTS
Instead of others understanding and supporting us through the difficulties this time of year brings, we’re often told to “cheer up” and “stop being so gloomy.” All year people may tell us to “get over” the loss of a loved one as it’s been long enough. Our feelings are not validated and we end up feeling worse because of it.
You may find that you start beating yourself up. “They’re right; I should be over this by now.” “The whole neighborhood is going all out on decorations, and I can’t afford it. My house won’t look good and people will look at me differently.” “If I don’t make my famous cranberry bread I’ll never hear the end of it, but I just don’t have time.” “Just suck it up and look happy. You have so much to be grateful for.”
Even if you don’t beat yourself up, when you’re feeling crappy and everyone else is feeling good, it’s a very lonely feeling. You feel isolated and often don’t know who to turn to to talk about those feelings. People you talk to aren’t validating you, so why bother. It is not a good feeling.
One of the problems with forcing yourself to be happy when you’re not is the worsening emotional drain. Another problem is our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are connected. When we feel crappy and we’re feeling lonely, we may start isolating more. This just makes the problem worse as we really are alone at that point. We may experience other behavioral changes such as irritation, low patience, feeling more physically tired, poor sleep due to racing thoughts, more crying than usual. Some people have more suicidal thoughts during the holidays than any other time of year.
I USED TO ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS AND WISH I COULD AGAIN
I know that right now you’re feeling down and overall not feeling good about yourself or the holidays. It is a rotten feeling and you may have put up walls, pretending you are like Scrooge from A Christmas Carol, almost in a joking way.
You want to enjoy the holidays but just don’t know how. There’s so much negativity. There’s pain all over the world and even in your own little world. How can one be happy with all this pain around?
The fact is, you don’t feel THIS bad all year. The activating event of a holiday with so much giving and family has increased the sad feelings you have. You do not have to feel this bad just because there’s an activating event. That activating event can be seen as the activating event to feel worse…or better.
It’s not as hard as you may think to feel a bit better over the holidays. There are ways for you to manage the depression and even start to turn the gloom around.
TAKE A LOOK AT THESE 4 TECHNIQUES FOR DEALING WITH DEPRESSION THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
If you can relate to feeling sad or lonely during the holidays and are looking for some relief, take a look at these ways you can cope with your depression this holiday season:
1. Feel your feelings – If you are grieving a loss, it’s important that you’re honest about your feelings. Our instinct may be to put on a brave face for friends and family, but forcing yourself to be happy for the sake of others will only make matters worse. Sadness and grief are a part of life, no matter the season, and it is 100% okay for you to feel your feelings.
Feeling your feelings doesn’t mean you have to sit in them and focus on them. It just means recognize the feeling and where that feeling is coming from. It is serving a purpose right now. What purpose is it serving right now? What are the feelings and thoughts telling you that you need to do? Do you need to take time for yourself? Do you need to go to a loved one’s grave? Do you need to do a video call with someone you haven’t seen in awhile? That feeling is serving a purpose and telling you something. Listen to it.
2. Give something besides money – If a lack of finances is the primary source of your mood, look for other ways you can give to others. You can volunteer at a local charity. Are you a good cook? Offer to cook for friends and family. If your talent is writing, write your kids a bedtime story or, if it”s painting, pain a beautiful mural on their wall. At the end of the day, thoughtful gifts from your heart will leave the greatest lasting impression.
There are many people that would be grateful for anything you can do. If you volunteer as a family, you are teaching your children about the value of giving instead of receiving and the happiness you can get from giving. By making something for someone, they are very likely to feel more grateful than if you just went out and bought any ol’ thing that they may or may not even care about.
3. Focus on self care – It’s important that you care for yourself during the holiday season. Eat right, drink filtered water, exercise, and get plenty of rest. While these steps are important for everyone throughout the entire year, they are particularly important for those suffering from depression during the holidays.
Please don’t forget that self-care is not just the commercialized self-care. Making sure you are getting in the shower. Doing some meal prep to ensure you eat well and nourish your body with the fuel it needs throughout the day, drinking enough water for the same reason. Doing a wind-down routine at night to help you sleep better. Using your gratitude journal to help you see the good in among the difficult. Self-care is not just a fad. It is a way of life and a necessity of life.
4. Seek help – Depression is nothing to take lightly. If your depression has lingered, is getting worse, or you’re having suicidal thoughts, it’s imperative that you seek help from a qualified mental health professional. They will be able to help you navigate your overwhelming emotions and offer tools to manage symptoms.
This blog gives some good tools to help with depression, but it may or may not be enough. As I said above, some people have more suicidal thoughts during the holidays than other times of the year. Even if you know once the holidays are over you’ll be ok, you still need to get through the holidays safely.
Right now you are struggling to feel good about yourself and about this time of year. It seems like everyone everywhere is so happy. It may even seem a little fake. You have put up walls for such a long time, but it is starting to feel worse and you’re not sure what to do.
I will not tell you that you “should” be happy. I will not tell you to “suck it up.” There is a reality to your feelings and they are valid for you right here right now. It does not mean you will feel this way forever if you don’t want to. I will walk through the feelings with you, helping you to make your own decisions and change your behaviors and thoughts if you want to on your terms.
If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. You don’t have to suffer alone. I would be more than happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help. Please call me at 941-462-4807 to schedule an initial appointment.