6 Ways To Cope With Holiday Depression

Are the holiday blues bogging you down? Find out how you can manage your emotions better so that you can still enjoy the Christmas season. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many of us are celebrating the holidays this year. As we struggle with financial insecurity, the death of loved ones, and fear of contracting the disease — all while being physically distanced from our usual support group — we may be feeling additional stress, sadness, or anxiety instead of love, peace, and joy. 

“First of all, it’s completely ok and normal if you do not feel happy during what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year,” says Riyan Portuguez, RPsy RPsm (also known as The Millennial Psychologist). “Studies have shown that the holidays can trigger or exacerbate feelings of isolation, grief, and sadness, and anxiety.

That being said, there are things you can do to minimize the stress and depression that you may be feeling during the holidays. Who knows, you may even end up enjoying it more than you thought you would.

  1. Plan ahead. When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. So for next year, try to prevent strong emotions from hitting you hard during the holidays by doing all your Christmas preparations before December comes around, specifically shopping for presents and wrapping the gifts. “This way, you don’t have to go out as much during the weeks leading up to Christmas and see all the decorations or hear the music, all of which can trigger your depression,” says Riyan.
  1. Reduce social media use. When you are bombarded with images of other people enjoying time with their loved ones, enjoying their new gifts, or eating yummy food that you cannot afford, you will be reminded of what you don’t have and feel worse instead of happy. Take a social media break for your own peace of mind. 
  1. Remember the reason for the season. “If you are feeling down because you feel pressured to give gifts even though you have limited funds, reframe your thinking. Remind yourself of the things that matter — that you still have friends and/or family who care for you, that you have a house, food on the table, that you are alive — and celebrate those,” points out Riyan. “Don’t allow perfectionism — the idea that Christmas has to be commemorated a certain way  — to rule your life.” 
  1. Continue to do self-care. Exercise, sleep well, and eat healthy meals throughout the holidays. Overindulging will only compound your stress and guilt. 
  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones because of physical distancing measures, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. “Don’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season,” says Riyan. “Cry if you want to cry.”
  1. Reach out. “If you are feeling isolated or lonely, ask a trusted friend or family member to spend time with you, even just virtually,” suggests Riyan. “Talking to them will ease your concerns and offer you support and companionship during this stressful time.”

Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal grief, so you can combat them before they overwhelm you. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

Despite your best efforts, if you find yourself feeling persistently sad, anxious, or hopeless, seek professional help. A good place to start is MindNation’s chat helpline on FB Messenger, which is open 24/7 (yes, even during the holidays). The service is free, completely confidential, and the staff is trained to ease your anxieties. 

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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