23 Dec by HPA/LiveWell Clinical Psychology

Unfortunately, the holidays aren’t always the most wonderful time of the year – many people expect to feel happy over Christmas, yet holiday depression is a common experience.

Christmas can be a pressure-filled season that can actually exacerbate mental health difficulties; people are expected to socialize more, eat and drink more, as well as often spend in excess. Furthermore, if you are already experiencing loneliness, then it can feel overwhelming when everyone else seems to be surrounded by loved ones.

During the 2020 holiday season, it is particularly important to look after your mental health – especially if you are forced to socially distance alone.

If you, or someone that you know, is struggling to cope with the symptoms of depression or a mood disorder over the holidays, then we at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY, can help.

Dealing with Holiday Depression

As the holidays can be an anxiety-inducing and pressure-filled time, it is not surprising that the season can exacerbate the symptoms of depression for many people. If you have an existing diagnosis of a mood disorder and holiday depression is something that you experience, then the most important thing to remember is to keep up with your treatment plan. This might mean being more mindful about your medication adherence, as well as maintaining a regime that you typically find helpful, such as exercise or therapy.

Here are some tips which may help you to avoid potential triggers and help keep holiday depression at bay:

  • Plan ahead – think about the things that you enjoy and build them into your holiday plans. This might be reading a book, watching a film that you love, or listening to music that makes you feel alive; restorative routines such as this can help you mitigate your depressive symptoms during the holiday season.
  • Avoid conflict – sometimes, it can be almost impossible to avoid family conflict. But if you’re aware that it’s a common occurrence during the holiday season which tends to trigger your depression, then it may be necessary to prepare neutral responses to a potential conflict in advance. These responses might sound like “let’s discuss this another time”, or “I can see your point”. Then remove yourself from the situation by escaping to the bathroom or volunteering to help with some chores.
  • Try not to overindulge on food and alcohol – if you experience guilt from overconsumption, it might help to prepare for the season by eating and living healthily for a couple of weeks in advance. Furthermore, be mindful of the depressive effects of alcohol and that it may worsen your holiday depression.
  • Focus on the positive – specifically, focus on the people in your life. Sometimes, the holidays force us to spend time with people that we don’t always see eye to eye with. Try to focus on what it is about these people that you like. Remember that they too may find the holidays stressful.
  • Don’t try to be perfect – there’s a lot of pressure involved in finding the “perfect” gift, prepare the “perfect” meal, and providing the “perfect” experience. Try not to focus your energy on being perfect. Instead, take your attention off of yourself and list the things about the holidays which make you feel truly happy. It helps you to feel grateful for all that you have instead of focusing on perfection.
  • Keep a routine – holiday activities can interfere with your sleep schedule and this can worsen your holiday depression. Try to keep a routine around sleep, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time and avoid large meals or exercise too close to bedtime.

Social Distancing During the Holidays

As we navigate the 2020 holiday season, experts across the country are advising us that staying home is the best and safest option. However, for many of us, this is an extremely disappointing conclusion to a long and stressful year.

After months of isolation, economic anxiety, and worry about ourselves or our loved ones contracting COVID-19, many of us were looking forward to welcoming hugs and celebrations with loved ones. The reality of the situation is that attending large gatherings, abandoning masks, and relaxing our social distancing can have serious implications which could extend far beyond our own social circles. COVID-19 symptoms are asymptomatic for many people, thus, it’s important to make some modifications to our holiday celebrations for the sake of our loved ones and beyond.

Ways to Celebrate the Holiday Season While Socially Distancing

The coronavirus pandemic might have altered your traditional way of celebrating the holidays, but if holiday depression is something that you experience, then it may help to get creative and find some alternative ways to celebrate. You may even end up making new holiday traditions.

Here are some tips on how to celebrate the holiday season while socially distancing:

  • Pick your favorite traditions – you might not get to do all the holiday traditions that you’re used to but try to do the ones which are still realistic and important to you. This might be as simple as decorating the Christmas tree or making the foods that you love.
  • Plan ahead – the 2020 holiday season may have to be more frugal than previous years, but if you do still plan on exchanging gifts, try to avoid stores and plan ahead to make sure that gifts can be delivered on time. Try homemade gifts such as baked goods if you’re trying to save some cash.
  • Make new memories – you might be feeling a little fed up in the same environment every day, but you can still make new festive memories. Make or buy a special advent calendar, wear Santa hats while watching a Christmas movie marathon, or sing festive songs around the fire with hot cocoa. Little things will really help to make the Christmas season brighter and help alleviate the symptoms of holiday depression.
  • Find ways to see loved ones – even if it’s just over a zoom call, it will help your holiday depression to see and talk to the people that matter to you. Try to remember that many of the people that you care about may be experiencing the symptoms of holiday depression as well and that it might help them to see you. Spread the joy and show them that you care.
  • Sometimes what’s different is what makes it special – sometimes, the holiday seasons from year to year can blur into one. At least the 2020 holiday season isn’t likely to feel the same as every other year! The exceptional circumstances of this year might just be what makes it special. You just have to find a way to make the most of it in a manner that works for you.

Be kind to yourself this holiday season. Acknowledge your efforts and everything that you have accomplished this year – even it’s just having gotten through it in one piece. If you want to learn more about how to care for your mental health, or to learn about the mental health services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY, contact us at 518-218-1188.

Many people experience holiday depression, and it may only be exacerbated this year if you are social distancing alone.