Blue Christmas: Coping With Depression During The Holiday Season

Blue Christmas: Coping With Depression During The Holiday Season

The holidays are often a joyful time for many. There are family gatherings to look forward to, lights, religious ceremonies, good food, and the spirit of giving. Then comes along 2020 and hijacks most of those plans. It comes as no surprise that this year depression levels are spiking more than ever around the holidays. Due to the pandemic, individuals and families are being forced to make tough choices: do we visit family and quarantine before and after, do we get together in a smaller group and wear masks, or do we forgo the celebration altogether? Many are choosing to stay home for Christmas in order to help stop the spread of the virus. This-combined with lessening sunlight, cold temperatures, and all too often grief over the loss of a loved one are combining to form a particularly nasty cocktail of seasonal depression this year. Read on to find some tips on how to beat this blue Christmas.

Recognize that you are not alone. Even though it might not seem like it, many people are with you in feeling extra sad this year. Can’t see family? Pick up the phone or Skype them in order to connect. Whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one, are social distancing to keep yourselves and others healthy, or just feeling your yearly seasonal depression, having human contact has been shown to lift our spirits.

Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t do. Maybe this means that you plan a meal for yourself and/or your household. Maybe you can create a new tradition that you can share with others next year. Try cooking a meal that you have never cooked before. Skype your family. Try incorporating a new game into your holiday tradition. By focusing on the positive possibilities, you are training your mind to practice gratitude. Gratitude is just that: a practice. It does not always come naturally, especially if you battle depression, but it can be learned. No matter how bleak things seem, there is always something to be grateful for.

Take time to grieve. In contrast to the above point, it is equally -if not more- important to take time to grieve the loss of loved ones. December through February every year has the highest death toll. This can make the holidays a painful reminder of someone you have lost. Remember grief is like a fingerprint. It will look different for every individual, but the basics of grieving are anger, sadness, meaning making, and acceptance. If you need to cry, it is more than okay to do so! I encourage my clients to cry a lot, because it can be cathartic and healing. Since birth, crying has been a sign that we are alive! Crying for the loss of a loved one shows just how important that person was to you. Some people also like to share memories about the departed person; although grief is individual, sharing the burden of it together is a bonding and healing experience. Some people like to take time and write a letter to the person they are missing. Don’t be discouraged if you grieve this person every year-grief tends to work this way. It comes in waves, and although you might not be triggered as often as before, it can hurt just as much as when the loss was still fresh when you are triggered. It can actually be impossible to feel true joy unless you allow yourself to experience your full range of emotions. Feel what you feel, honor the lost person.

Focus on movement. The connection between mental health and exercise has been documented many times; so why is it so hard to keep in the routine? Depression can certainly be de-motivating, but so can repetitively doing an action that you loathe. Find a workout or way to get moving that you actually enjoy, and focus on consistency, not intensity. So instead of running on a treadmill and sweating for an hour, hating every second of your life-try dance, yoga, lifting, free weights, or anything else! Even if you do 15 minutes of movement a day, if you do this consistently, not only will you notice a change physically, you’ll notice a change mentally as well. Try to focus on the enjoyment of the movement, not the potential weight loss, tightening of muscle, or whatever it is you are trying to get out of the workout. Those things will only come if you stay consistent through enjoying what you are doing.

Talk to a therapist. This last one is obvious, given my profession, but many people never think to contact a therapist about grief. This is because the only way through grief is to feel, and many people want a solution to make the feelings go away. Having a safe relationship with a therapist you trust can help you get to certain emotions that might have been hard to access before. You may find yourself talking about things you never thought you could, and this can be relieving in and of itself. Therapists can also provide suggestions for coping and tools for working through the grief process yourself as well.

As always, if you need someone to talk to about grief or anything else, get in contact with me via julia@moorevulnerabilitycounseling.com

Joyous Holidays!

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