Too Depressed to Deck the Halls? 5 Strategies for Happier Holidays

gray, depressing christmas ballAre you currently decking the halls with boughs of holly or dodging bouts of holiday depression?

Depression at this time of year is fairly common, so don’t beat yourself up for feeling particularly blue. You are not alone if sadness and isolation are all that seem to accompany the deluge of toy commercials, family gatherings, and piped in holiday instrumentals playing in every restaurant, mall, and drug store.Many people simply tolerate the merriment rather than derive any real enjoyment from it.

Let’s take a look at the challenges the holiday calendar presents and then we’ll look a 5 ways to combat your winter holiday woes.

What is contributing to your seasonal depression?

  • Loneliness? If you face the holidays alone due to a breakup, distance, or a lack of meaningful relationships, loneliness can feel particularly painful in this season of goodwill and togetherness.
  • Deep longing😕 Maybe you long for the holiday magic of a previous time or struggle with reminders of lost loved ones. It is common for the ache of loss to reoccur during this period of tradition and reunion.  Grief, longing and overwhelming nostalgia may make talk of merry memories and a shiny new future hard to take.
  • Financial worries: If your resources don’t allow for much giving you may be dealing with embarrassment, shame, or financial anxiety. Not being able to participate in gift giving or feeling very worried about every dime spent, can ruin the fun of the season for you and lead to avoidance of gatherings and parties where you might receive requests to participate in office or community gift exchanges.
  • Winter SADness: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during this season of waning sunlight and increasing cold may make you want to burrow in the covers until spring. Many people have trouble with winter in general and cannot get into the holidays easily.

Do you wonder if you might be depressed? Take this depression test and find out.

What you can do to make your holidays happier

1. Prize the present moment more than gift-wrapped presents

Anxiety and depression get the better of us when we look too far ahead or get mired in the past. Try focusing on the moment. Let the moments you notice and the feelings you feel come to your attention. They are enough to notice and accept. Just be where you are physically and emotionally. That’s enough. No judgment. Your feelings aren’t wrong or bad. Allow yourself some self-compassion and let things ride.

2. Feel free to do the season your very own way

Make no apologies for bucking tradition. If you feel better having an intimate cocktail hour or dinner party with a few friends, skip the huge family feasts. Travel if you want. Play rock instead of carols. There really aren’t any rules you must obey. Sometimes being a bit of a rebel is invigorating.

3. Pour out gratitude and generosity

Scientific research shows that happy people are givers and routinely give thanks. Someone out there needs your attention, expertise, or resources this season. Fight against isolation and sadness by volunteering in a Houston shelter or make a donation or families displaced by flooding. Generosity is an effective mood booster. It feels good and will remind you how much you belong to a Houston community that needs you.

4. Take charge of your time and money

A sense of inadequacy fuels depression as the holidays progress, use the opportunity to consciously schedule your involvement and plot your spending. Feeling more in control of your choices and interactions, rather than being bullied by commercialism and family demands, is liberating. You may feel your mood lift as you set boundaries that prioritize your needs and wants.

5. Overcome SADness with self-care

Do what you can to find the sun. Get outside early and often when the sun is available to you. Also be sure to eat well and exercise daily to keep your brain and body awash with as many feel-good chemicals as possible.

Finally, if you find that nothing you try infuses much hope or your mood grows significantly darker, reach out for support. The holidays are temporary, your mental health is much more important. An understanding loved one or a therapist can help you get through this season and help you challenge the humbug that threatens your happiness.

If you need support getting through holiday depression, give us a call at 832-559-2622 to schedule an appointment with one of our Houston counselors. Or, click here to book an appointment online.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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