Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But, why are you depressed? Christmas may be the merriest season for many, but for you, it may be the most difficult season to deal with. Are you experiencing holiday depression? Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Why do I get depressed on Christmas?”.
While others are busy decorating their homes and buying presents, you feel lonely, and you’re unhappy. This holiday time may worsen your mental health, for it brings back painful memories such as loss, breakups, divorce, and family disagreements. Or simply, you can’t spend time with your loved ones during this time.
Why Do I Get Depressed on Christmas?
Holiday depression is a form of depression that usually occurs during the holidays, like Christmas. There are a lot of factors that trigger holiday depression. The list below shows how you can combat feelings of depression.
Having Unrealistic Expectations
You should be realistic about the events that could happen during family gatherings. If your family has recently experienced a family conflict or the loss of a loved one, it is best not to pursue the gathering. This will only cause negative feelings and stress on you.
Instead of feeling bad about it, be grateful instead. You can thank the cook who prepared the meal, the family member who organized the family gathering and be thankful for the chance to spend time with the people who matter to you.
Trying to Do a Lot
This is the time of the year where you have to decorate your home, make a list of all the people who will receive your gifts, and have countless parties to go to. If you are a very anxious person, these pressures can take a toll on you.
The common holiday depression triggers are pressure and fear of not accomplishing everything on your to-do list. Your perfectionism can also increase your stress during this season. Don’t overwork yourself. Make a realistic list and try to stick to it as best as you can.
Comparing Yourself With Others
Christmas is the best time for you to capture your family photo. This is the time that other people get a sneak peek of what you are up to. You might also see families who travel during Christmas. Everyone will post photos on social media for your scrutiny.
You have to remember that every family has its own issues and problems. What you see on social media may only be their rehearsed realities. You should stop comparing your life with others.
Not Taking Care of Yourself
If you have been regularly taking care of yourself, such as exercising, eating healthy food, and maintaining a skincare routine, all these are affected during Christmas. If you have been following a strict self-care schedule, you might find yourself annoyed that your schedule falls short due to many holiday activities.
Christmas means more food on the table and lesser time for you to burn those calories. There are more alcoholic beverages to consume and enjoy with family and friends. Christmas also means that you have lesser time to go to the gym to work out.
Being unable to do your regular routine can cause stress and anxiety. The only person who can manage all these is you. You have to know your limitations and you don’t have to attend all the parties that you are invited to. Furthermore, you can choose the ones that can fit right into your schedule. Be mindful and take care of yourself.
Mental Health Issues and Coping With Holiday Blues
Many mental health issues arise because of the holidays. This can be due to increased stress or knowing that you’re not with your loved ones during the holidays. There are other mental health issues, but the most common one is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
This is a clinical depression with recurring symptoms caused by the changes of the season. If your symptoms of depression regularly occur during winter, then you should visit a mental health professional to be properly diagnosed with SAD.
There is less sunlight during winter. Because of this, your body produces less melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for your body’s sleep/wake cycle. If there is a decrease in melatonin production, you become more irritable, have difficulty concentrating, and have sleeping problems.
Even if there is less sunlight available, go outside for a few minutes. Less exposure is better than none at all. Another coping technique from the Norwegians is the ability to mentally manage expectations for the season. They think about the fun things that the season brings like going skiing, ice skating, bonfires, and fluffy blankets.
Because of this, Norwegians no longer suffer from holiday depression. If this seasonal depression makes the depression worse, you should seek professional help. Treatment for SAD includes taking antidepressants, light therapy, and talk therapy.
Emotional Guide for the Holiday Season
The holiday blues are real and be very disruptive. You should consider a change in lifestyle and take note of the guide below:
You know that Christmas parties come left and right. You don’t have to sacrifice your self-care just because of these social obligations.
Before December comes, you should figure out how to manage your Christmas calendar. Make your self-care your top priority. You can exercise and read a good book in between preparing Christmas meals and gift buying.
Avoid Family Disagreements
There are toxic family members that are unavoidable. You can’t avoid them but you can prepare how to handle them during confrontations. If the confrontations are rough, you can leave the room, help in the kitchen, or watch over the kids.
Focus On What’s Good and Important
The holiday season is stressful as it is. You should focus your attention on the people that make you happy. The holiday also brings financial hardship. It can be very stressful to think about the money that you will spend to celebrate the holidays.
You can encourage your friends to set a budget for your gift exchange and have a potluck meal. What’s important is spending time with people who are dear to you.
Avoid Perfectionism and Limit Social Media Exposure
Christmas is the season of giving. You should focus on sharing your blessings with the less fortunate instead of focusing on receiving gifts. Once you focus on people who are less privileged than you, there is no reason for you to feel depressed.
Be thankful for your blessings. After all, Christmas is the season of thanksgiving. A lot of happy pictures will surface on social media. If you think looking at these pictures will make you feel sad and ungrateful for your life, it is best to avoid it at all costs.
Be Able to Grieve and Ask For Help
Losing a loved one due to death is an intense emotion to go through around the holidays. You can grieve and pour out your sadness for Christmas is also the season for self-reflection.
You should keep your family, friends, and support groups close. You need them during your trying moments. It will be hard to take care of yourself when you are depressed. These people will help you forget about what caused your depression and help you recover quickly.
Get Adequate Sleep, Exercise, Enough Light Exposure, and Eat Right
Studies show that there is a connection between lack of sleep and depression. The holidays will surely cut you off of your sleep. It is best to set a fixed time for sleeping and a fixed time for waking up in the morning.
Staying active should be your priority and exercising greatly improves your mood. You can simply do a morning walk for 30-40 minutes daily and that is enough. During winter, your body doesn’t get enough sunlight. If you have SAD, exposing yourself to any form of light exposure will help ease the effects of SAD.
It can be very tempting to overindulge during Christmas parties. Instead of getting two servings of a particular dish, just get one. Also, drink alcoholic beverages in moderation. Taking too much of these drinks will make you feel more depressed afterward. Remember, that this season shall pass but you should stay healthy until the next seasons to come.
Make Non-holiday Plans and Limit Commitments
The holiday spirit is everywhere. It is hard to pull yourself away from the festivities and even make non-holiday plans. But, making non-holiday plans can divert your attention from your holiday blues. You can call your friends and plan a short trip or a small get-together. Don’t label these as “Christmas getaway” or “Christmas dinner”.
Make sure that you choose which parties to go to. You don’t have to attend all of them. Choose only the parties that you are comfortable with and the ones that will not disrupt your daily routine.
Time to Unwrap Yourself
There is no such thing as a perfect Christmas. Don’t let the holiday stress get the best of you. This season is the best time for self-reflection and refocusing your life choices.
Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) and its team of mental health professionals can provide medical advice for you to cope with holiday depression. KCC will help you unwrap yourself from depression.
The winter season may be dark and gloomy. But, with the help of KCC, you now have a choice to make your life bright and cheerful. KCC offers payment options for your convenience. You can use your health insurance to avail of KCC’s services. KCC wishes you and your loved ones a happy holiday!