Does the holiday season fill you with dread instead of joy? Does the season mean sadness instead of celebration? Does the pressure of expectations make you want to retreat? For some, the holidays aren’t about family and happiness. For some, the holidays are about depression and loss. Could this be you? Maybe this is the year to deal with your holiday depression.
You are not alone. You are not the only person to feel more sadness than joy during the holiday season, and not the only one to look at the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as something to get through, rather than celebrate. It’s stressful when you are feeling sad! Even if you manage to put on appearances and come off as happy and celebratory, inside it’s a whole different story.
The holidays or the season?
Is it just the holidays and holiday issues that bring on this feeling or is it part of a bigger pattern of your emotional well-being? The holiday season does happen to coincide (at least in the northern hemisphere) with the weeks between the daylight savings time change and winter solstice — a time of diminishing daylight. Do you start to feel better after the winter solstice on December 21st? Could your holiday depression be seasonal affective disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that occurs in relation to seasons — most often in winter and for women. It may be related to relative ambient light. That it coincides with the holiday season is really bad timing.
Don’t force happiness
Seasonal affective disorder or not, trying to force happiness during the holidays may actually make you feel worse inside. What you can do, even if you are lonely and sad or have suffered a recent loss that is affecting your mood, is try to appreciate what you do have. Whether it’s good coffee at breakfast or a friend willing to sit with you or your daughter’s kisses, there is good in even the saddest of days. Instead of forcing yourself to be and feel something you’re not, look for the little things to get you through
Take small steps during the holidays to observe and/or celebrate the season — or just to live life as best you can. If you can’t muster the energy for all out joy, take small steps to stay involved during this busy holiday season.
- Try to be active every day. Exercise does help! And — bonus! — a walk on a sunny day helps ambient light input if your depression is related to light changes.
- Eat well and nutritiously. Foods do affect moods.
- Don’t shut yourself away during this season, but don’t pretend to be the life of the party, either. Try to find that in-between of seeing the people you love without having to be something you’re not.
- That said, avoid your triggers. If big crowds make you feel worse, avoid the mall and do your shopping online. If the holiday music puts you over the edge, stick your personal play list instead of the radio dial.
- Take things a little bit at a time — whether it’s a day at a time or five minutes at a time. You can get through this.
Take your depression seriously, no matter the source. Admit to those around you that you are struggling and ask for some adjustments to their expectations of you. Seek the advice of a medical care provider. Some therapies may be appropriate and helpful in this difficult time.
You are not alone in your seasonal depression, and you don’t have to go through it alone. Although you may not be in for happy or celebratory holiday, you can get through the season without falling off the deep end — and maybe a little appreciation of your life along the way.