Depression and anxiety are giant, all-consuming, monsters. They can attack you at any time and take over every aspect of your life. Mental health issues don’t care about who you are, what day or time of year it is, but is there anything worse than feeling blue while everyone around you is “Merry and Bright?”
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What are the Holiday Blues?
After Thanksgiving and the beginning of December, depression can become a real issue for many people. At this time of year, depression is often diagnosed as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or holiday depression/winter blues. As a sufferer of chronic depression and Bi-Polar type 2, I know firsthand the clawing, dragging heavy burden of depression during the holiday season all too well.
I put my decorations up, I light the candles, I shop for presents, I cook the food, and still nothing… the void is here to swallow me whole. So long Christmas cheer, try again next year.
There are countless articles on the web telling you to exercise more, get outside, share more with family and friends. However, what matters most is that depression cannot be overcome by a wish list full of things that “should” make you happy. This article will help you find ways to manage your depression by focusing on one aspect: change. You may need medical treatment to deal with depression. But you can also make a difference by taking small steps to gradually change your lifestyle and keep depression from impacting you as much as it might have in the past.
How to Cope with depression at Christmas
Sadly, and more often than not the phrase “get into the festive spirit” has been weaponized to make anyone who isn’t feeling “Jolly” or “joining in” feel worse than they already feel. Many people can’t accept that someone else can’t get into the spirit or just shake it off for the sake of Christmas – Chantings of “Bah Humbug” and “Scrooge” echo through the air.
An important thing for depression during the holidays is self-care. Self-care is basically taking care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually no matter what your situation. It involves things like eating healthily, sleeping enough, getting some relaxation time away from work or family obligations, etc.
You might say that these are just common sense things now but many people ignore their feelings and needs because they feel like they have to be strong for everyone else. Self-care is about being able to know when you can’t handle it anymore and admitting this fact rather than forcing yourself to go on until you crash.
When you have depression over the holidays you may seem angry or unsympathetic to others around you that are having fun because depression can make you think that no one else is feeling the same way. It’s important to understand that depression isn’t logical and having depression does not mean you aren’t grateful for what you have.
Baby Steps To a Happier Christmas
Holiday depression never seems like it will end, but there are things that you can do to help yourself deal with depression during the holidays. You may be tempted to go straight into self-protect mode by staying in bed late, eating junk food, etc., but these things could make you feel worse in the long run.
It’s important to have some structure in your day and do things that make you happy, even if it’s something small like getting up and brushing your teeth, making a cup of coffee or tea. Do not doubt the power of taking these small steps to look after yourself – a simple thing like brushing your teeth or having a shower can shake up your senses and let you reset your mind.
A mindfulness practice I like to do whenever I have a shower is to envisage all the things that are causing me pain, both physically and mentally to be washing off me, away from me, and down the drain.
My top 5 favorite self-care at Christmas tips are:
1. Take A Luxury Bath
This one might seem obvious but if you really make a big fuss out of it for yourself and go all out with a candle or two, a few snacks, fresh fruit or your favorite drink, a facemask, essential oils, or scented bubble bath to lift your spirits. I also sometimes like to take a device that can rest on the side or wherever you can see it, and watch your favorite film or TV show or even listen to an audiobook to take my mind away and make me feel extra luxurious. But if you don’t have a bath, there are still many ways you can practice self-care.
2. Take Care Of Your Hands
The winter air is cold and bitter on your hands, pair that with central heating and get ready for some dry and sometimes painfully cracked skin on your hands. This might sound like a strange self-care practice, but for me, this really works: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap of any kind and pat dry, follow with a hand cream of your choice and take 5 minutes to sit down and give yourself a hand massage. Now I’m not just talking about the average application of hand cream where you just absent-mindedly rub cream into your hands for 15 seconds until its absorbed, I’m talking about giving yourself a break from your day to focus on yourself in a way that neither takes your time away or makes it obvious to anyone around you that you’re practicing self-care.
There are a few pressure points in the hand that can be used for massage. One is the webbing between the thumb and index finger. Another is the fleshy side of the palm just below the thumb. You can also use your thumb to massage the fleshy side of the little finger. To give a hand massage, use your fingers to apply pressure to these points. Rub in a circular motion or press and release repeatedly. Be gentle at first and increase the pressure if needed. Massage for a few minutes until you feel the tension release. Enjoy! 🙂
Applying massage to these pressure points on the hands has also been proven to ease headaches and other bodily pains as well as anxiety and stress.
3. Treat Yourself
‘Tis the season of giving, but I’ll bet if you’re reading this that you have neglected to show kindness and compassion to yourself. It’s important to remember that treating yourself to a little something doesn’t make you greedy. I’m not saying go on a mad spending spree, but when you’re at the corner shop buying milk or bread, get yourself that slightly pricey magazine you wouldn’t normally splurge on, a box of chocolates that you are going to enjoy all to yourself or even order something small to bring a smile to your face like some new soft slippers. These little treats to yourself can help remind you that you are just as important as the other people in your life that you are showing love and compassion to.
4. Binge A TV Show Or Films
While some will tell you that vegging out on the couch and watching TV isn’t a good idea, sometimes, it just is. You feel crappy, you’ve gotten out of bed and brushed your teeth, you’ve got a coffee but you still feel drained and deflated. When I feel this way, especially during the holidays when there is a long break from work, there’s no better feeling than staying in my PJ’s and simply lounging on the couch guilt-free, getting stuck into a TV series on Netflix, or watching a few films in a row. Ordering some take-out so there’s no cooking or washing up to be done. Heaven.
Give yourself a break from responsibilities and let your true sloth come out for the sake of it. You might find that after you let yourself do this without punishment you feel refreshed for the next day to take on whatever you like, or even just repeat it! Because, hey it’s the holidays, why not?!
5. Step Outside
This one seems obvious, and also rather drummed in. Who’s parents haven’t told them to “Go outside and get some fresh air” – but if you’re feeling up to it, try stepping outside, maybe even take a walk and see how it makes you feel, you might be surprised at what the fresh air can do for you.
Adapting to new Holiday traditions after a loss
Feeling blue at Christmas time is definitely not fun but Christmas whiles you’re grieving is intensely difficult.
We lost our little brother in November 2018. That first Christmas without him was unavoidably heartbreaking, and to tell you the truth it hasn’t gotten much easier year after year. You will always miss that person you have lost but anniversaries, and family gatherings, or social get-togethers do pull the memories in harder and remind you that another year has passed, still without them.
My only personal piece of advice is to embrace the memories of Christmas past with your lost loved one, laugh with someone about the silly things you used to do, share stories of traditions past with the person you lost, and if you feel the wave of tears come on, it’s ok to cry on Christmas day. Who made this big rule that you cannot cry or be sad or just feel the way you want to feel for the sake of Christmas? No, you are entitled to feel however you need to, and after you let yourself feel your feelings and maybe even share this with someone you might even start to feel a bit lighter.
Another way to help depression and loss during the holidays is by accepting that things may not be the same as they were in past years. This doesn’t mean that your holiday season is a failure, it just means that you are changing and so is your life. The holidays are a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to what lies ahead. If you’re struggling with depression, it might be helpful to make a list of things that you are grateful for. Creating a positive mindset can be difficult but you can only try your best, even if that list is just one thing that says “I stayed on top of the laundry” That’s absolutely fine, you achieved that, you should be proud of yourself, and give yourself gratitude.
You are not alone
Another thing to keep in mind is that you are not alone. Many people suffer from depression during the holidays and there is no shame in seeking help. If you are feeling overwhelmed, please reach out to someone you trust for support. You can also call a hotline or go to a counselor if you feel like you need more help than just family and friends can provide.
The most important thing is to be patient with yourself and take things one step at a time. Don’t try to do everything all at once because it will only lead to frustration and more depression. Small changes over time will make a big difference in how you feel during the holidays.
Remember to be kind to yourself and don’t punish yourself for things that are beyond your control. You don’t owe anyone anything. You are enough, by just being you.
FAQ's on how to deal with depression at Christmas:
Who can I call at Christmas if I feel like I really need help?
In the UK Samaritans are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk. You can visit some Samaritans branches in person. Samaritans also have a Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).
116 123 (freephone)
Chris, Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK
PO Box 90 90
Stirling FK8 2SA
Is the cinema open on Christmas Day?
YES! Cinemas in the UK and America stay open on Christmas day! So if you’ve had enough of Christmas in all of its forms, you can go to the cinema and forget all about it for a few hours, how wonderful is that?
What are some other cultures’ non-Christmas traditions?
It’s a well-known tradition that Chinese restaurants stay open on Christmas day as they don’t celebrate Christmas. Over the years this has created a wonderful bond between the Jewish community and the Chinese especially in large cities, you can always find Chinese restaurants full of Jewish customers not celebrating Christmas together! If you would like to join in on this tradition just call around the Chinese restaurants near you to make a booking as in some places, due to this tradition, Christmas has become the busiest day of the year.
Chinese restaurants during the festive period have become some of my favorite places to haunt when I’m not feeling jolly. In an authentic Chinese restaurant, you won’t find a bauble or dancing Santa in sight! How refreshing.
Here are some other cultures that celebrate the holiday season on different days, and in different ways:
– Hindus celebrate Diwali on November 7th
– Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8th
– Jews celebrate Hanukkah from December 24th to January 1st
– Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha from August 21st to September 24th