The holidays can be a time of great joy with gatherings of family and friends, beloved holiday traditions, a blanket of glistening snow, and general good cheer that hangs in the air. For others, however, the holidays can be a lonely time filled with sadness. People with depression often feel even more and alone and isolated during the holidays.
Depression increases during the holiday season. Why? Winter can bring with it Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to earlier sunsets and later sunrises wreaking havoc on our internal clocks, and the colder weather tends to keep people cooped up inside.
The holidays also mean more stress. There’s so much more to do including shopping, wrapping, traveling, and spending money. Family visits can be stressful for some as old negative memories or disagreements often bubble to the surface. There are crowded stores, social gatherings, and tempers can be short because everyone’s feeling the stress.
People who have experienced a loss or some kind of tragedy in their past during this time of year find the holidays particularly difficult as they associate the tragedy with the holidays. This time of the year can bring back the feelings of that time like they were still fresh.
If you’ve experienced Depression in the past, you’re feeling the symptoms, or you’re worried they might return, there are some ways you can take care of your mental health during the holidays.
- Talk to a therapist or counselor if you don’t do this regularly or if you do, consider increasing your visits.
- Avoid the stress. Do your shopping as early as possible or go with something simple for everyone on your list like gift cards. If you have a lot of conflict with family, limit your time with them or cut out your visit altogether. (This doesn’t mean isolate yourself. Spend time with people who make you happy.)
- Don’t overspend. Spend only what you can afford to now. Having to pay off your credit cards for the next year is only going to prolong the holiday stress. Create a budget and stick to it.
- Avoid excessive drinking. Alcohol is a depressant. You may feel good for a drink or two but you’ll come down and feel worse. Alcohol can also contribute to doing something you’ll regret.
- Look for the magic. Sometimes it can be hard to see it. Try to find joy in something every day such as a break with a mug of hot chocolate, finding your favorite Christmas ornament, or walking in the quiet of new-fallen snow. The magic is usually found in the simple things.
- Donate your time. Charities are always looking for an extra set of hands and the experience can be uplifting and may give you a different perspective.
- Adopt a pet. There are so many pets of all kinds that would give anything to find a safe and caring home. Looking into the thankful, loving eyes of a rescue pup will fill your heart and drive away the loneliness.
- Ask for help. If you’re struggling this Christmas season, reach out for help. Tell a friend or loved one, or call SAMHSA’s helpline at 1(800)662-HELP(4357) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800)273-8255.
At GatewayTMS, your mental health is most important to us. We provide TMS therapies to help our patients find relief from symptoms of Depression when medications have failed them. Call GatewayTMS today at (314) 909-8487 to find out more.