My kids will tell you that Christmas is my least favorite holiday. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment of the season; it just seems to me that the hustle and bustle gets the best of you. As a single mother, I stress about getting just the right gift for the kids, teachers, family, and friends, while also saving money. Instead of a peaceful, reflective time of year, the chaos ensues in the shopping, cooking, wrapping, and decorating. Luckily, through it all, I am surrounded by the ones I love the most. Unfortunately this is not true for everyone.
The holidays can represent a time of loneliness or depression for some. The Mayo Clinic offers tips for coping with these feelings during the holidays.
- Acknowledge your feelings of sadness or grief.
- Maybe a loved one has recently passed away. The holidays may represent a challenging time dealing with this new phase of life. It’s okay to cry or express feelings.
- Reach out.
- The holidays can be an isolating time. Seek out opportunities to serve or to be in the company of old and new friends who are part of civic or religious organizations that can serve as a support system through the changes and emotions.
- Put differences aside.
- Sometimes the stress of the holiday season is caused by long-term ill-feelings between family members. Tensions may run high when everyone gets together. If a little rift exists, maybe disagreements can be put aside, common ground found, and plans for moving forward in these relationships put on hold until a more appropriate time to discuss the current issues.
- Seek professional help, if needed.
Sometimes stress and depression can be handled alone, but sometimes it is appropriate to seek out the help of professionals. If feelings of stress or depression are persistent or are causing increased anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, or hopelessness, a doctor or mental health professional may be able to suggest a course of treatment that may help alleviate some of the issues being experienced.
- Don’t write off the seasonal stress as just that, seasonal.
David Dunner, MD, director of the Center for Anxiety and Depression in Mercer Island, Wash., says that sometimes depression associated with the holidays may appear to be coincidental, when actually the problem goes much deeper. What may be viewed as stress related to a hectic travel schedule or prolonged family visits may actually be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the side effect of a medication, or something else altogether.
The stress and depression don’t have to be a given during the holidays. Making small changes to normal traditions, or scaling back expectations may be all that is needed to breathe new life into this time of year. But, if stress and depression still persist despite changing what you can and not worrying about what you can’t, there are professionals who can help. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help if it can’t be done alone.