Even the happiest people sometimes experience holiday blues. With so many things to juggle at once, it’s not uncommon to feel down during the “most wonderful time of the year.” Especially for those prone to depression and anxiety, November and December can be particularly difficult to navigate with a smile. What causes the holiday blues? Everybody’s different, and the triggers vary. As comedian Sarah Silverman describes depression, “it feels like it’s coming over me like a flu.” Depression can be as sudden and unexpected as any other illness. Sometimes it hits us when we least expect it – and it’s never convenient or fun.
"I can only speak from my own experience, and I would say that the depression I experienced feels like a chemical change," she said. "When it came over me, when it comes over me, it feels like it's coming over me like a flu. You ever just sit ... and you're fine and the next moment you just go, 'Oh, Jesus, I have the flu.'"However, there are some common factors you can be aware of that add unwanted stress during the holiday season:
- Unrealistic expectations
- Constant commercialization
- Visitors and family reunions
- Distance from friends or family
- Drastic changes in weather
- and more
Plan Ahead…You know it’s coming, and that gives you the upper hand on depression and anxiety. This season, devote some time to creating restorative routines. Identify what calms you and build that into your regular schedule. Read a book. Chat with a friend. Take a nap. Make these priorities so they never get skipped during your busy day. For your travel. It’s hard to feel relaxed when you have to rush to the airport or train station, wondering all the way whether you’ve left something important at home. Get your arrangements booked as early as possible and confirm them to make sure your transportation, hotel, rental car, and other necessities are in order. Prepare extra time to pack and double check your tickets, identification, and medications so you can head out with confidence. For your feelings. The holidays are actually designed to encourage a variety of feelings. Some are joyful, but others tend to open the door to negativity if you aren’t careful. Remind yourself that quiet contemplation on your feelings – all of them – is normal and healthy, especially at this time of year. Write down things that upset you and answer questions like “What do I wish were happening instead?” This conversation with yourself can actually help manage depression. For your health. We know you’re slammed with tons of things to do. For many of us, it’s tempting to let exercise take a back seat to more urgent priorities. The reality, though, is that exercise is one of the best natural mood enhancers available, and lack of exercise is one of the strongest ingredients for anxiety. Do your body and your emotions a favor and take that brisk walk as often as you can. For your relationships. Most of us have at least one Grinch in our lives. Think ahead about how to defuse potentially negative situations with your family’s source of conflict. You can prepare a bank of polite responses that allow you to end the conversation or delay it until you’ve calmed down. Try positive statements like “Maybe we can talk about this again later” or “Thanks for letting me know how you feel.” Then get back to enjoying your day, argument-free.
Make New TraditionsTraditions are a source of joy for many people, but sometimes our traditions cause us stress. Maybe they remind us of sad things. Maybe they won’t fit into everyone’s schedule this year. That’s okay. The best thing about traditions is that they are flexible. They grow with you and your family. Don’t be afraid to change things up this year if it will help you heal. Some family members will be excited to try something new, but not everyone is comfortable with change. This is also fine. Be considerate of your family’s feelings, and make any adjustments to traditions gently and with kindness. Positivity is the theme for this season!
Focus on What Matters MostSpoiler alert: it’s not the presents, it is love and friendship. Some people will choose to give expensive presents because they have money to spare, but little free time. They may choose to show their love by buying gifts. Others may not have a lot of money to spare, but they will devote their energy to creating personal gifts at home. They’re showing love in their way. Both the expensive presents and the hand-made gifts are equally valuable.
Say No SometimesIt’s so easy to overburden yourself during the holidays. Give yourself the freedom to say no to a few invitations. Let your friends know you’re grateful they thought of you, but you already have another obligation – even if that obligation is actually private time with yourself!
Eat and Drink ResponsiblyTry feasting slowly; our brains take a few minutes to catch up to our stomachs, and sometimes we feel hungry for a short while after we’re actually full. There’s no need to fill your plate on your first trip. If you’re still hungry several minutes after eating, you can always get seconds! Also, remember that alcohol can make your emotions more intense than usual. Keep this in mind when you’re breaking out the wine or egg nog this holiday season. Have whatever is a reasonable amount for you, but listen to your body. Relax and take it slowly. With careful preparation, positivity, and focused attention to your body and emotional needs, you can take this tricky time of year and turn it into the glowing, joyful season.
Depression Treatment UtahPathways Real Life Recovery offers treatment for depression from our Sandy, Utah location. To take advantage of a free assessment, call 801-895-3006 today! Happy Holidays!
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