Holiday Coping Tips For Those Battling Depression

By Victoria Kim 12/22/17

If you’re feeling depressed and not too cheerful about Christmas and New Year’s, here are a few ways to manage those emotions.

stressed-out woman wearing a santa hat surrounded by Christmas presents

For some, the holiday season is less about celebrating—and more about hiding under the covers. The increased social commitments and pressure to be jolly around this time can be especially taxing for people who already struggle with depression.

Psychologist Anita Sanz addressed this in her answer to the Quora poster who asked, “Why does depression tend to increase during the holidays?” Sanz breaks it down succinctly: “Depression tends to increase during the holidays due to an increase in demands, family issues, and being unable to manage expectations.” 

The combination of potential stressors that are exclusive to the holiday season include the expectation to shop for gifts, travel, attend parties—and if you’re not a fan of crowds, this can all be especially tiresome.

Sanz says these demands on one’s time, energy, and patience can lead to “increased feelings of sadness, guilt, inadequacy, overwhelm, alienation, and unworthiness.”

It also doesn’t help that “healthy ways of managing stress like ensuring good nutrition and daily exercise are often interrupted,” adds Sanz.

Having to spend time with family may bring up deep-seated issues too. “If there is loss, dysfunction, addiction, abuse, disconnection, separation, estrangement, or divorce occurring or affecting your family, then there is the likelihood that you will have to manage the emotions that are related to these issues,” said Sanz.

If you’re feeling depressed and not too cheerful about Christmas and New Year’s, there are ways to manage and work around these emotions.

1. Set realistic expectations. 

For example, if seeing your family will make your depression worse, maybe politely withdraw from the festivities this time around. The holidays come every year. You’ll have more chances to enjoy yourself in the years to come.

2. Have a plan.

Equip yourself with the tools/techniques to cope with stressful situations that may arise. 

3. Talk to someone if you need help.

A mental health professional may be able to help you work out what’s troubling you, or help you prepare for stressful situations with coping mechanisms.

4. Stay active, stay social.

Brandon Kutmas, a mental health professional at UnityPoint Health Trinity in Iowa says forcing yourself to go out and interact with others could boost your mood, depending on where you’re at. It beats sitting at home and scrolling through Instagram or Facebook.

“Often when people are feeling down, they socially withdraw but turn on social media, which has negative impacts because they are comparing their life to others,” said Kutmas, according to WQAD.

All in all, as Fix Blogger Dr. Tonmoy Sharma wrote in a recent blog post: “No holiday is worth losing your mind, your health, your sobriety.” 

Protect your mental health and your sobriety. Be mindful this holiday season!

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr