Sometimes, the merriest time of the year doesn’t feel so merry. Quality time with loved ones and taking a new approach to traditions are two of my top five ways to manage depression this time of year.
I love the winter holiday season. The lights, decorations, and holiday retail displays make even the big-box stores look magical. And, of course, the carols playing everywhere you go so that you can’t help but think of sugar plum fairies and Rudolph as your head hits the pillow each night.
Having two toddlers only adds to the excitement, my oldest reminding me daily that he hopes Santa brings him a new Lego set. And let’s not forget about the holiday parties. With COVID restrictions easing, we’ll be resuming in-person holiday events. You’ll soon be greeting people you haven’t seen since before the pandemic with open arms.
But for someone with depression, the pressure of holiday merriment can be exhausting. A few years ago, I ended Christmas Day in tears, reflecting on how fast it all went by and wondering how many more holidays I would have with my aging parents so healthy. And then I felt bad that I was feeling bad because how could I feel bad when nothing bad was actually happening? I know, I’m quite the life of the party.
Of course, I’m not alone. In fact, feeling sad around the holidays is becoming much more common, and this Healthline article offers some great tips to keep the blues at bay, such as limiting alcohol and getting lots of rest.
For me, it’s about accepting I’m going to cry, and it’s going to be hard but doing whatever I can to limit any stress. If that means avoiding relatives or family friends that badger me with questions or demand career updates, so be it. Here are my top five go-tos to treat the holiday blues.
If your traditions include giving gifts around the holidays, minimizing the pressure here can be a huge relief. Holiday shopping for all your friends and family can be emotionally and financially exhausting. So, in my family, we just do stockings. Filling up the felt containers with each of our favorite candies, magazines, and socks. Perhaps we slip in a gift card to a local bookstore, but that is as wild as we get. Even for the littles, the stockings have become a favorite tradition. We do also include a gift or two from Santa, but it’s not some super gift-giving extravaganza, and everyone is happier and healthier for it.
Whatever your traditions are, find ways to simplify them or remove some of the pressure from yourself so you can be sure to have fun, too.
Ever since I was a little kid, my parents had this tradition where we would adopt a family from the local shelter or church and purchase gifts from their wish list. It was always my favorite part of the holidays and a tradition I’m excited to continue with my own kids.
It reminds my kids and me what’s really great about the holidays, and nothing keeps me in a healthier mindset than when I am doing something for someone else. Coming up with ways to remember what’s important to you around the holidays can help you feel more grounded this time of year.
I’ve always found joy in movie-watching traditions around the holidays. For my sister and me, it’s Hallmark holiday movie-watching days. If you’re not into cheesy rom-coms with ridiculously predictable meet-cutes, maybe skip this one, but for me, this is a must. We live for these marathons, and it wouldn’t be the holidays without them.
These low pressure moments together are when we laugh the most. Something about a movie where a town is trying to save a coffee shop, bookshop, or music shop from a developer who ultimately falls in love with the said shop owner, just spells holiday joy for us (and the millions of other viewers). Watching seasonal movies is a great way to de-stress and get in the spirit!
If you’ve never played Taboo during the holidays with friends from out of town, you’re missing out! Being silly and eating chips and salsa while your childhood friend tries to get you to guess random things on a card… pure magic. Suddenly, you’re kids again, laughing and enjoying life. Career goals or who you’re dating seem insignificant during these special nights.
Coming up with simple ways to get quality time with the people I love helps me feel the joy this time of year.
My sister knows me better than anyone. She was there when I was in the thick of my depression struggles. I’m always very open with her about how I’m feeling and if I sense a sad wave coming on. We check in with each other regularly and support one another if we each need to slip out for a second just to be alone.
Knowing I have her in my corner really helps me navigate the unpredictable lows I may face during the holidays. Identifying someone you can turn to when you don’t feel your best is one of the best support tools out there.
Even during the most wonderful time of the year, being happy isn’t a guarantee. Take care of yourself during the holidays, and know that you’re not alone. I can promise you that even with my “Fab Five” list above, I will certainly be crying alone on the couch at some point during this holiday season, and I’m OK with that.
Medically reviewed on December 01, 2022
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