In our cultural imagination, the Christmas season and the holidays in general, are supposed to bring joy as we spend more time with family and friends. The reality however, is that this season can also be a time of difficult memories, expectations and disappointment, and stress.
Contrary to popular belief, suicides do not increase during this time of year. But depression, according to Psychology Today, is reportedly higher around the holidays than any other time of year. The reasons include everything from the commercialization of Christmas (expectation and disappointment), to the year-end as a time of reflection, perhaps inducing painful memories.
Depression of course, is a medical term used to characterize more than just mere sadness. This needs to be emphasized because of the under education and stigmatization that centers around mental illness. So, should you suspect medicalized depression, this article is not for you. (Seek professional assistance if necessary.) But if you do experience sadness, (non-medical) anxiety, and loneliness during this time, here are a few things to remember:
1. In the first place, remember that you probably didn’t have entire control of the root cause of your holiday blues. (And if you haven’t figured out the source, try to do so this year. ) Oftentimes such experiences might take place in childhood, and we carry the weight with us into adulthood. Releasing yourself of some of that responsibility can help you understand that everything that happens to you, isn’t always up to you. But it is up to you, what you take from it.
2. Remember not to deny yourself the need for alone time. Much of the time during the holidays, you may feel overwhelmed by either being around people too much, or somehow still feeling lonely in a crowded room. And even if the problem is a lonely aloneness, the space to understand yourself is often needed too, to be able to identify what you’re feeling, and if possible, why you’re feeling it.
3. Remember to practice kindness and care towards yourself. It is indeed the season for giving, and give you should, to others. You’ll find that focusing a lot on those who aren’t as fortunate as you during this time of year, keeps you busy. But if there is a gift you should give yourself if you are susceptible to sadness or melancholy during the holidays, try for peace of mind. Do this by simplifying your life, putting off intense conversations if possible, and if not possible, taking extra time in how you approach them. And if things don’t work out or go as planned during this time of year, allow yourself some extra respite and patience in dealing with those things.
4. Remember to be wary of making any major life decisions right now. Chances are, you instinctively feel under a lot more stress, even if it may not actually be under any more than the ordinary amount of stress you face during any other time of year. Either way, avoid making big life decisions because you’re probably too affected by the seasonal sadness to take into consideration all factors needed in your decision-making.
5. Remember to pay attention to what you consume and how you treat your body. This does not mean being overly concerned with gaining weight during the holidays. But it does mean ensuring that you are attentive about your propensity to stress eat or binge drink, or on the other hand, be overly conscious about exercising and healthy eating. Try to find some balance during this time as you would in any time. But don’t forget to enjoy that this time of year brings with it special food and drink, and it’s okay to have a little more than you usually would.
6. Remember to be objective about the kind of year you’ve had. Yes, some things have not gone your way. And yes, you may have faced losses and defeats and disappointments. But also be sure to count (literally, if necessary) all the good things that have happened this year. And when you do, don’t forget to think of all the people who have made a positive impact on your year.
7. Remember everyone who loves you. It is easy to feel pressure during this time of year. The pressure of getting gifts and going to parties and being around loved ones and strangers, who expect you to perform that most wonderful time of the year demeanor. But don’t get lost in the “stuff” of this time of year. Instead, every time you feel that pressure, think of the fact that there are people who love you. And they love you for you, not for what you can give or do during this time of the year or any time of year; they love you for who you are.
8. Remember that you are capable of giving this time of year new meaning and new memories. It is very important for you to know this if you struggle with sadness during this time of year: your memories are fictional. Yes, certain things happened in the past and yes, we may associate them with certain time periods or places, etc. But it is vital for you to know that even though you can’t change the past, you can look at it differently. So why not give this year new meaning? Why not remember to do the things you love, and that bring you joy, so that you can create new memories?
9. Remember that you don’t have to do more than you can. Set limits and keep to them. And if possible, avoid taking on things that you don’t enjoy, and that you merely put pressure on yourself to accomplish. Remember that what you can accomplish may differ from one day to the next. And always, always remember that whatever you did or didn’t accomplish this year, and in this time of year, you’re doing better than you think.