Depression affects more than 14.8 million adults in the U.S. For those struggling with depression, the holiday season can be anything but the most wonderful time of the year. In fact, for most people with depression and mental health disorders, the holidays can be one of the most difficult, frustrating, and dreadful times of the year. Even people who don’t struggle with clinical depression can find the holidays to be extremely depressing and stressful.
Some of the reasons for this include the hectic nature of preparing a home for family members and guests, endless parties and social gatherings, gift shopping, big meal making, and everything in between. Even seeing others more cheerful and merry than usual can make it extra difficult for those struggling with depression.
Staying Joyful & Merry During the Holiday Season
So what are ways you can help yourself or your loved one manage depression and mental health during the holidays? Therapeutic Solutions wants to equip you with some practical tips and steps to help make your season more joyful.
Consider the following as we head into the holidays:
1. Don’t Let Your Expectations Run Away From You
When you think of the holiday season, do you envision classic movies that portray the perfect turkey dinner or glazed ham with family members smiling around a table or drinking hot cocoa while watching the snow fall? Don’t let elevated expectations creep into your holiday season! Keep your mindset realistic and don’t build up how you think the end of the year should round out. When things don’t go your way, it can easily trigger depression. Consider stepping outside of tradition to create a unique holiday experience that will take the pressure off.
Instead of worrying about preparing the perfect meal, finding the perfect gift, or putting up the most beautiful decorations, just enjoy the simple moments. While this can be easier said than done, find a support system of people or professionals who can hold you accountable to this. If you feel yourself getting carried away, talk to them about your readjusting your expectations and your efforts.
2. Take Time to Volunteer
While you don’t want to overbook your holiday season, carving out time to volunteer can help you take your mind off your own stresses and concerns and remember a greater purpose around the holidays. Serving those who have less than you can truly put your holidays into perspective and help you restore your joy and comfort knowing you have made even just a small difference in the life of another person. From soup kitchens to toy drives, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer this time of year. You may want to take some time away to serve on your own or may even suggest serving with family and friends to bring a unified perspective to the holidays.
3. Avoid Holiday Depression Triggers
Are there certain people, places, or even Christmas songs that act as depression triggers for you? Don’t let these things creep into your holiday season! By heading off problems, you can help minimize the risk of triggering your depression and maintain a more joyful and consistent attitude. Whether that means you avoid your aunt’s big party this year or you opt to stay in a hotel room instead of a memory-filled house, make sure you think through triggers and create an alternative plan to avoid them. You may be surprised at how easily you can control and overcome these triggers without giving up your holiday fun!
4. Keep Your Schedule Lighter Than Usual
There is no denying the holidays can be stressful. With parties, social gatherings, gift shopping, school functions, and other festive events going on, it may be hard to find time to take a deep breath. With the holiday season seeming to drag on for weeks, don’t overbook your schedule. By keeping your weeks lighter than usual, you can take time to manage your depression and avoid common triggers. Even consider shopping online to avoid the hectic mall scene!
Having time to relax around the holidays is important too. Only go to parties or events you really want to go to and know you will enjoy. When you do hit up your cousin’s dreaded white elephant gift party, don’t stay longer than you want. For events you feel like you have to attend, just drop by for a few minutes and let your host know you have other engagements. Knowing you don’t have to stay at a party until the end of the evening can eliminate anxiety and make your experience less stressful.
5. Eat, Exercise & Stay Healthy
This time of year can be filled with distractions, hearty meals, and plenty of lengthy parties and visits. Don’t let yourself get out of healthy habits! You can enjoy those traditional meals but if you know certain foods can make you feel gross or effect your mood, opt for alternatives. Eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising during this time of year can keep your mind alert and help you avoid a slump. With all the hustle and bustle, you may forget to take medication or keep up with appointments. Make sure you maintain your regular schedule and even consider setting up additional appointments with the team at Therapeutic Solutions. We offer specialized treatment options that can help mitigate the symptoms of depression without the use of drugs or medication.
If you feel sad around the holidays, be sure to acknowledge these feelings! While you shouldn’t force yourself to be happy this time of year, there are options for you to manage your depression and still enjoy the season.