I hate the holidays! I mean I love the fact that we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, but the holidays are so commercial and overwrought. It can be depressing and stressful even for those who don’t have depression, but it’s a double whammy for those us who do. For me, the holidays often are a cold, harsh, jingle bell reminder that I am single, with no significant other in my life. The print ads, television commercials, and billboards – even the movies – depict happy families decorating the tree, opening their xmas presents, playing in the snow - all emphasize couples, family, children, togetherness, and love. All of which just makes me feel even lonelier.
According to Mayo Clinic.com, there are certain triggers that bring about depression or make it worse during the holidays:
Relationships: Relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time. But tensions are often heightened during the holidays. Family misunderstandings and conflicts can intensify — especially if you're all thrust together for several days. Conflicts are bound to arise with so many different personalities, needs and interests. On the other hand, if you're facing the holidays without a loved one, you may find yourself especially lonely or sad.
Finances: Like your relationships, your financial situation can cause stress at any time of the year. But overspending during the holidays on gifts, travel, food and entertainment can increase stress as you try to make ends meet while ensuring that everyone on your gift list is happy. You may find yourself in a financial spiral that leaves you with depression symptoms such as hopelessness, sadness and helplessness.
Physical demands: The strain of shopping, attending social gatherings and preparing holiday meals can wipe you out. Feeling exhausted increases your stress, creating a vicious cycle. Exercise and sleep — good antidotes for stress and fatigue — may take a back seat to chores and errands. High demands, stress, lack of exercise, and overindulgence in food and drink — all are ingredients for holiday illness.
Mayo Clinic.com Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress and Depression
Seek Support – If you are feeling down or isolated – seek out friends and family, community or religious avenues. Consider volunteering your time this season. Helping others can lift your spirits as well as others.
Be Realistic - As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Hold on to those you can and want to. But accept that you may have to let go of others.
Set differences aside - Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all your expectations. Practice forgiveness. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. With stress and activity levels high, the holidays might not be conducive to making quality time for relationships. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
Stick to a budget - Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and other items. Then be sure to stick to your budget.
Plan ahead - Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make one big food-shopping trip.
Learn to say no - Believe it or not, people will understand if you can't do certain projects or activities. If you say yes only to what you really want to do, you'll avoid feeling resentful, bitter and overwhelmed. If it's really not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
Don't abandon healthy habits - Don't let the holidays become a dietary free-for-all. Some indulgence is OK, but overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and schedule time for physical activity.
Take a breather - Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Steal away to a quiet place, even if it's to the bathroom for a few moments of solitude. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
Rethink resolutions - Resolutions can set you up for failure if they're unrealistic. Don't resolve to change your whole life to make up for past excess. Instead, try to return to basic, healthy lifestyle routines. Set smaller, more specific goals with a reasonable time frame. Choose only those resolutions that help you feel valuable and that provide more than only fleeting moments of happiness.
Seek professional help if you need it - Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for several weeks, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. You may have depression.