For many people, the holidays are not a time of endless joy and traditions filled with smiling family members. Instead, the holidays represent increased stress and negative feelings surrounded by bickering families, excessive spending, never-ending commitments, and mindless eating and drinking. If you are a person who struggles with depression over the holidays, this time of year can be especially difficult as you feel the pressure to put on a happy face.
Read on for 11 helpful tips to get you through the season…
1. Maintain your healthy habits of eating right, drinking lots of water, exercise, sleeping a good 8 hours, and avoiding excessive use of alcohol or drugs. If you don’t already have these habits in place, it might be a particularly hard time of the year to start, so be kind to yourself and try not to go overboard.
2. If you don’t already do so, consider starting a mindfulness practice such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, or even just deep breathing. This type of practice will help you to manage your stress year-round but will be very helpful during the holiday season as well.
3. If you’ve recently undergone a loss such as a breakup or a death of a loved one, you are allowed to feel your feelings AS THEY ARE- you don’t have to be happy just because it's the holidays. If you’re feeling sadness or anguish or depression, acknowledge these feelings and allow yourself to feel them.
4. Reach out to people in your community for support when you need it. This can be family members, friends, neighbors, support groups, church, school communities, or even a paid professional such as a therapist or your doctor.
5. Limit your time on social media. Social media tends to highlight the good times of people’s lives and encourages you to compare this white-washed image of someone else’s life with your own very real life. This is not helpful if you’re feeling depressed.
6. Do not pressure yourself to follow all the traditions from holiday’s past. Pick and choose the ones that are important to you, and don’t worry about the rest. You can also choose to modify some traditions. Like for example, have a potluck dinner for Christmas Eve and serve it buffet style with paper plates rather than a big sit-down dinner. Or instead of individually wrapping and decorating each gift, use gift bags. Remember, nothing needs to be perfect. Your kids will still have great memories of you spending time together.
7. Set a budget for yourself for gift buying, meal shopping, decorations, travel expenses, etc.- and stick with it! If money is tight, consider a white elephant or homemade gifts. Give yourself permission to skip the secret Santa gift exchange at work.
8. Learn to say no. You do NOT have to go to everything that you’re invited to. You do NOT have to participate in every activity or party. Choose the ones that are important to you or that you think will be fun and go to those. For the rest, politely decline. It really is OK.
9. Take some time for yourself to just relax and be quiet. Maybe take a bath, read a book, go to a museum, do an art project, or take a walk in the local park. Just take some time to relax and enjoy some time alone. Or, if you prefer, bring a friend!
10. Let others know what you need and want. If you need to be alone for a night, tell your family. If you need company, ask for it! If you need someone to watch the kids or put up the tree or do your gift wrapping, ask someone. Other people will never know what you need if you don’t.
11. Plan beforehand how you want to deal with potential problems. For instance, if your mother-in-law’s frequent criticisms stress you out every year, ask your husband to run interference for you. Or if your uncle always ridicules you for your opinions, plan to skip the annual party.
The holidays don’t have to be terrible and with some forethought and planning, you might even have a relaxed, and pleasant time. Remember, you deserve it.
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