Gleeful snowmen, chipper carols, and endless holiday chatter pervades the air. Even in the early days of December, lines of cheerful parents waiting with their children to talk to Santa stretch across mall courtyards. People of all ages are basking in the holiday spirit – but you feel as though it’s passed you over entirely. Dealing with depression or grief during the holidays can be nearly impossible when those around you are cheerful and expect you to feel the same. Expressing sadness during the holiday season can feel awkward or uncomfortable, but it truly doesn’t need to be. Thankfully, there are strategies you can implement to accept and deal with depression during the celebratory season.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Your emotions are always valid. Grief or depression doesn’t adhere to a calendar, and you aren’t expected to force it to do so. Moreover, emotional suppression rarely works; in all likelihood, the emotions will come back even more strongly when you least expect it. Take the time to accept and process your thoughts and feelings at your own pace. If you feel as though a holiday party or event is too much for you to handle, allow yourself to leave early! We all need time to ourselves sometimes.
Reach Out to Friends and Family
That said, taking time for yourself should never be used as an excuse to isolate yourself from others. Those with small social circles or feelings of disconnectedness tend to withdraw during the holidays. Often, these individuals worry that they will feel out of place or even more unhappy if they see others celebrating; however, isolation usually makes feelings of depression and loneliness worse. If you feel alone or depressed, reach out to your friends or family members! Even a little social interaction can make a significant difference.
Don’t let the cold keep you down! Maintaining a regular exercise schedule will help boost your energy, keep you healthy, and motivate you to engage with others. If possible, keep a sleep schedule that allows you a full eight hours of sleep each night. Given that exercise is a natural mood-booster, a proper diet and exercise may help offset some of depression’s emotional heaviness.
It can be difficult to spontaneously engage with others when your depression is keeping you isolated. Make notes on your calendar ahead of time to propel you towards social participation. Set plans to meet friends, bake cookies, or even decorate a tree. Taking small steps towards social participation will help you feel more engaged in the holiday.
These are helpful strategies for dealing with depression during the holiday season, not solutions. If you ever have suicidal thoughts, please reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional for help.