If you are the kind of person who sails through the holidays full of Christmas cheer, not getting run down or frustrated or lonely, consider yourself lucky. For many people, holidays bring the old feelings of dread and exhaustion, and along with them, depression.
Days that are “merry and bright” may be few and far between in the months of November and December. We are stressed, we are fatigued, we face many troubles, we put too much pressure on ourselves to meet everyone’s expectations. We want to send the perfect holiday cards, give the perfect gifts, and have the nicest, most beautifully decorated houses and trees. All of our days are spent trying to impress other people or make others happy, but we fail to remember what is really important at this time. Feeling inadequate or unable is just one cause for holiday depression.
For some people, holidays are a very lonely time. Because they’ve lost a loved one to death or a move, or a relationship hasn’t turned out as expected, people often feel alone at the holidays. Other people have put such a distance between themselves and their families because of things like substance abuse or alcoholism. Many people aren’t proud of where they are in their lives right now, and the thought of facing old friends and family is a depressing one.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Christmas and New Years fall in the darkest part of the year, which also causes problems. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects millions of people every year. The low amounts of sunlight actually work against our chemistry and can cause depression in some people.
Depression Around the Holidays
So, we have an unfortunate combination of stressful expectations, loneliness, and the environmental contribution of dark and dreary days, and yet we still hope to have a merry and bright holiday season? No wonder experts estimate that 25% of people face holiday anxiety or depression. (1) Many people feel that the only way they can make it through is to self medicate with drugs or alcohol, but this only exponentially adds to the problem.
Taking Care of Ourselves
There are countless bits of advice floating around from people who care and who want to help others survive this season. Among them are a few gems of guidance: Make your expectations realistic. Live in the present, and be hopeful for the future, but do not dwell on the past. Focus on the reason for the season. Take time to volunteer and help those less fortunate. Take a break; relax. Talk to a therapist. For some people, treatment for depression is necessary. Be sure to get help if you feel your depression is unmanageable.