Mental Wellness

6 Self-Care Tips to Get You Through Holiday Depression

Everyone’s talking about Christmas presents and plans for 2021 with warmth and excitement but you just can’t find your own holiday spirit?

Did that fuzzy holiday rush decide to ignore you this year?

And, instead of feeling ready for something new, all you want is to hide in bed and forget about all the celebrations?

Congratulations, looks like you’ve caught a severe case of holiday depression!

And it’s not even a joke (if only an attempt to keep the mood lighter).

At first glance, the winter holidays are the most wonderful time of the year! Bright, and festive, and magical, and full of hope and love. We all wait for it all year long, don’t we?

But for those suffering from long-term depression, it may turn out to be a nightmare.

Two out of five winters I spent with depression gave me the worst dips in the history of my mental health. The best season of all, huh?

But it’s okay (as much as being depressed can be). It even makes sense when you look at the situation as a whole.

  • Why It’s Likely to Happen

If your depression stays quiet for the holidays, it’s great! You go! Every day spent without symptoms is a good day, so you know, indulge in the holiday spirit to the fullest!

On the other hand, if you have seasonal affective disorder, the reason for your holiday depression is pretty clear. It’s right there in the name.

But why would your depression get worse during this bright and happy month and without any particular reason? 

Alright, let’s start with the basics: Winter.

Yes, the winter itself is enough of a reason. Not only people with SAD get affected by the lack of sunlight – it takes a toll on everyone’s mental health.

Second, the holiday season is the time for meetings and greetings.

And while theoretically, it’s a good thing to catch up on each other’s lives, in practice it often means conflicts and misunderstandings. Especially when you have to stay under one roof with relatives you’ve been avoiding for years.

If only things were like in Christmas movies! But in reality, holidays often mean an overwhelming amount of tasks, responsibilities, and sensory overload.

The last one mostly goes to introverts and highly sensitive people – I see you, I got you, yes, I know what you feel.

Now the question is, how can you deal with all of that? How to get over holiday depression? Cancel all holiday plans or endure till the verge of relapse?

Of course not! Take notes of these simple lessons, and they’ll make it easier for you to find joy in the Christmas lights.

  • Mental Health Self-Care

Whenever you feel like tough days are coming, you have to prepare yourself. And the best way to do this is to prioritize your mental self-care.

If in the previous years you felt worse during holidays, go for it.

If it’s the first time for you to meet Christmas with depression, go for it.

You never know how it’ll be this year, so create your own self-care plan for the holidays and come back to it whenever you need it. Take a few hours out of these busy days to take care of yourself.

Options for such a plan include:

    • Going out for a walk
    • Meditating
    • Drawing/coloring
    • Listening to relaxing music
    • Journaling

You can find more ideas for taking care of yourself through depression in another post of mine – but make sure to keep it consistent and relaxing.

No one can take care of your mind better than you.

  • Stick to Your Routine

Especially medications if you take ones.

Maybe you don’t have to go to work or study for exams for a few days, but you still have to stick to your daily routine.

It’s tempting to think that if it’s the holiday season, you can relax and just do whatever you want. And there’s a grain of truth in it.

But what’s more important is to not overwhelm your mind with unfamiliar tasks and situations. They’re inevitable anyway, don’t put even more on yourself.

Our brains react positively to repeating patterns because a habit requires fewer efforts than a new environment, a new thing to try.

So if you wake up at 7 AM, keep waking up at 7 AM. If you exercise right after, keep exercising. Keep doing everything you’re used to doing, and your mind will find solace in the well-known actions.

  • Try To Explain or Talk It Out

Alright, that one is tricky.

I know how hard it is to talk openly about depression, especially when the other person can’t understand you. If they never went through the same thing, and if you don’t trust them enough, it’s scary to open up.

Rejection and misunderstanding hurt like nothing else.

But you can’t bottle up your feelings. (It’s true not only for the holiday depression, I hope you know that.)

Find someone you can talk to. It can be one of the relatives you trust, or an old friend you can call, or even someone on the internet – there are multiple anonymous (and not so) sources. You can even use this blog post to let things out.

Sharing your struggles takes their power away. Because you’re not on your own anymore.

  • Be Realistic

Let’s be real, we always expect something good from the winter holidays.

We were told since childhood – through ads, songs, movies, and your own family voices – how wonderful Christmas is. Even I mentioned it a few times already, so deep the notion is in the modern world.

The same pattern every year – and you inevitably end up with an obligation to feel happy at the first sound of Christmas carols.

But when you don’t feel that happiness, more even, you feel like an opposite of happiness, well, that only adds fuel to the fire.

It’s a meaningless circle, and I experienced it myself. I was blaming myself for not being ‘normal’, not being festive, not being able to laugh and smile with everybody, if only through the lump in my throat.

But you don’t owe happiness to anybody.

You are a human, and maybe Christmas lights make your heart sing, but maybe they don’t. And even if for everyone else they do, it doesn’t make your feelings less valid.

And if someone tries to tell you otherwise…

  • Keep Your Boundaries

You gotta have them. You gotta keep them. Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

But when you feel pressure it may seem natural to bend. Don’t.

I know, I know, easier said than done! I’ve been building my boundaries all this year, and I got into conflicts, and I got out of them, and it was worth it.

You are worth being treated with respect and understanding.

I’m saying it all because Christmas is the time when you meet up and catch up (maybe not as much with the ‘meeting’ part this year though).

It’s the time when you’re supposed to be exchanging jokes and feeling love inside your family.

Instead, more often than not you end up with a bunch of people that barely know the real you but still want to share their views on what exactly you should do with your life.

Conflicts are often inevitable around the Christmas table, so that’s why I remind you to keep your boundaries intact.

It’s not your job to make everyone happy.

RelatedHow the Need for Approval is Ruining Your Life (and What You Should Do About It)

  • Get Your Time Alone

Even if you’re not an introvert, it’s important to have a break amidst the holiday chaos.

And if you are an introvert, go out right now! Go, go!

Alright, maybe not so dramatic, but you know better than me how important it is to stay alone for a while. And with all the people, and songs, and cheers, and a ton of stimuli coming from every direction a bit of peace is crucial for your sanity.

Even if your Christmas gathering this year is quite small, still, find some time for yourself. (Unless, of course, you’re celebrating by yourself or with someone you’re comfortable with. Again, you know better.)

Very likely you won’t get much time to rest, especially on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Prepare yourself from the very morning.

Grab a bit of solitude here and there to keep your head cool. And, when everything’s over, indulge in quiet self-care to let go of the stress and overstimulation.

It’s gonna be okay. You can get through this. Holiday depression isn’t pleasant – but it’ll let you go.

Try to find a bit of joy in that overwhelming but magical season! I prepared a list of 50 different ideas for lighting up your Christmas spirit. Check it here and find the tool that suits you best!

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