Depression During the Holidays

holiday-depression_social-002In Norman Rockwell’s paintings, holidays are a time of joy, of families being together and peace on earth, good will toward men. But for many people, those paintings are far from reality. Loneliness can be especially acute. Family tensions can rise. The holidays can be anything but comfort and joy.

The key to avoiding or overcoming holiday depression is to counteract the causes.

  • If loneliness triggers depression, find ways to be around people. If distance—emotional or physical—keeps you away from family, volunteer at an organization that is meaningful to you. The local animal shelter still will need someone to walk and feed pets. The local homeless shelter may be more important than ever, especially if winter weather is brutal. Or visit the elderly neighbor who is alone—and may be just as lonely.
  • If grief is the reason, set new traditions. If this year marks the first without a loved one, it may be time to try something new, at least for this year. Go for a walk in nature or take in a movie. That may help ease the pain that comes from looking at Dad’s empty chair or missing Mom’s holiday delectable.
  • No matter what the trigger, practice self-care throughout the holiday season. That means continuing to eat right, exercise and keep alcohol intake within reason. It may also mean deflecting difficult conversations; think up a way to change the topic if things get too heated. It may mean finding a supportive friend who can listen.

While many people get sad during the holiday season, some encounter a recurrent clinical depression. It often is exacerbated by shorter periods of daylight typical of this time of year. In these cases, professional help may be needed.

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