The word depression can be accurately used in many contexts. For the purposes of this post, let’s define it as a mood disorder that can be triggered by an external factor, e.g. the holidays. At first glance, this can sound cynical. In reality, all of us understand how this time of year can be a mixed bag of emotions. We are literally expected to be joyful but the circumstances may involve toxic family members, overspending, overindulging, and losing any structure in your life.
Of course, anyone already dealing with grief or illness can feel doubly out of sorts. It’s a recipe for being overwhelmed and losing any sense of emotional regulation.
What Does Holiday Depression Look and Feel Like?
Of course, each person is different but even so, some common themes are known. Someone struggling with holiday depression may display:
- Mood swings
- Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed (including sex)
- Sleeping much more or much less
- Physical aches and tension with no obvious cause
- Angry outbursts
- Self-medication — from substance abuse to holiday desserts
- Unable to get into the “spirit” despite all the celebrations
Someone who was coping with depression before the holiday season may recognize these signs quickly. For others, it could just look or feel like “stress.” Either way, it is essential that you not only talk to a professional but also, engage in useful self-help measures.
Why is it Normal to Experience Depression During the Holidays?
The scope of factors is diverse but again, there are enough universal triggers to formulate a general picture, e.g.
- Being overwhelmed: Too many invitations and obligations can leave anyone feeling out of control.
- Neglecting the norms: A hectic schedule can lead to important daily functions falling by the wayside. These might include performing daily exercise, getting enough sleep, healthy eating habits, and practicing relaxation techniques.
- Overspending: The financial pressure is high.
- Commercialization: For many folks, the specific holidays have a much deeper meaning than materialism.
- Expectations: You might not have a close family or many friends living nearby. This can cause loneliness and self-doubt.
- Grief: The absence of certain loved ones can be a major source of sadness and stress.
A Few Self-Help Steps For Holiday Depression
Lower Your Expectations
You don’t have to be perfect and you’ll never make everyone happy. So, do your best and do what’s best for you. Stick to your budget and listen to your body.
It can feel daunting to turn down an invitation but without boundaries, you’re setting yourself up for a depressed mood. Everyone has limits. Discover yours and honor them. Remember that everyone else is also scrambling and overwhelmed. It helps when you lead by example.
Be a Smile for Someone Else
Helping others literally lifts your spirits. When sketching out your holiday schedule, leave room for acts of kindness toward those in need. Being the recipient of gratitude is a proven source of positive energy. Make a difference — in multiple ways!
Do not compromise your self-care routines. In a mistaken effort to please others, you may stay too late at a gathering or eat far too much unhealthy food. Turn that around this year. Prioritize the basics and reap the benefits.
Do Not Suffer in Silence or Solitude
Depression is much more than just having the blues. It’s a diagnosable disorder that can lead to self-harm. If the signs listed above resonate with you, reach out. Connecting with an experienced mental health professional is a big step toward getting out of the rut and moving forward. The holidays may be the trigger but finding a solution starts with reaching out to learn more about how solution focused therapy that moves at your pace can help.
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Therapy for Men is a practice led by Dr. Rick Pomfret that offers counseling and psychotherapy services tailored to the needs of men. Their services encompass anxiety therapy, depression therapy, relationship therapy, men’s issues and support for those navigating life transitions or divorce. With offices in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Therapy4Men provides convenient access to mental health care for men in the Bay Area and online across California.