« Can Men and Women be Friends Without More? | Main | The Importance of Exercise for Mental Health »

Dealing with Holiday Depression

It has always been amazing to me that the time between mid-November and the start of January is my busiest period of my professional year.   The holidays are always painted in stories and movies as an idyllic time full of love and happiness.  Even on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, the highlight reel of everyone’s holiday celebrations displays a skewed representation of the holiday season as a non-stop joyous celebration.  Unfortunately, the truth is far less joyous than you might suppose.  The reality is that many people struggle during this season.  They struggle with feelings of loss and isolation that are only exacerbated by the messages and images of happy family celebration that surround them. 

When you really think about it, there is no surprise that depression rates are higher during this time of year.  Families are often complicated and the holidays can force more time with your extended family than you are accustomed to.  Pair this with an increase of alcohol consumption and there are bound to be hurt feelings and old frustrations bubbling to the surface.  If families are far away and you are unable to spend time with them you may miss them and feel isolated.  In some instances you may be shamed or experience guilt over your inability to participate in family traditions.  For many, this time of year also comes with a reminder of the loved ones they have lost.  Additionally, you may spend time comparing this holiday to previous ones or measuring what actually happened with what you hoped would occur.  Furthermore, omnipresent  social media may cause  you to compare your decorations, gatherings, food, or experiences to those of your acquaintances and friends.  The outcome of such comparisons is often dissatisfaction with something that we might otherwise have found extremely satisfying. 

So the question becomes how can you keep yourself from sinking further into a depressive state this time of year?  There are a few simple ideas that may help you achieve that goal.  First, stay off or limit your exposure to social media.  Spend a few minutes every day instead focusing on what you like about the holidays and thinking about things for which you are grateful.  Learn how to kindly say no to things that consume too much time and energy and take away from the experiences that are important to you.  If you find yourself losing focus of your priorities, ask yourself what you value about this time and stay focused on that.  If you value your children having the experience of being doted on by their grandparents, hold onto the thoughts of that occurring and let go of the parenting criticism that might come with that visit.  Most of all, make time for the people who value you and who you enjoying being around, even if those are not the people with whom you feel obligated to spend time.   Honor anyone you may have lost.  Tell stories about them or create a tradition that keeps them alive in your heart. Remember that nobody has a perfect life or everything that they want but what they are showing you is often their best.  Give yourself (and others) permission to be human and imperfect.  You may be amazed how much more enjoyable the holiday season can be!

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>