Despite the cheerful twinkle lights going up on every house and the happy Christmas music on the radio, do you ever feel like the holiday spirit just isn’t sinking in for you? If you have depression, coping around the holidays can be extra challenging.
Why is this?
Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and chemical imbalances don’t have calendars. Your brain chemistry doesn’t know it’s the holiday season. But in addition to bringing cheer, the holidays also come with a lot of potential triggers to make your depression worse.
The holidays inspire perfectionism. Everyone wants to have the perfect Christmas for their kids and their families. Hallmark movies offer unrealistic expectations to live up to. This perfectionism makes us want to compare ourselves to others to see if we measure up, and if we don’t, it makes us miserable. In addition to perfectionism, the holidays come with a lot of pressure to be happy all the time. It denies us the ability to feel and experience our emotions. Trying to fake happiness all the time can be exhausting and leave us emotionally fatigued.
There can also be factors such as loneliness and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that may exacerbate your depression. People who don’t have family nearby might experience extra feelings of loneliness around the holidays. SAD is another form of depression. It is possible to have Double Depression where you experience chronic depression as well as seasonal depression at the same time.
How to Cope with Holiday Depression
Some of the first steps to coming with holiday depression is find or continue a system that works for you. If you are already using mindfulness, medication, or another method to manage your depression, it is important that you don’t let the holidays interfere with it. The holidays are a great time to start volunteering for mental health and practicing kyndfulness if you aren’t! If you think you might be experiencing Double Depression, click here to view resources to help find a mental health professional.
There are also a lot of smaller ways that you can help manage depression over the holidays. Some great places to start include unplugging from social media, building a friends support network, and using mindfulness to get in touch with your emotions. By unplugging you can remove yourself from the pressure to be perfect. Having a support network can help fend off loneliness if you don’t have family nearby. Similarly, using mindfulness can help you avoid the trap of feeling pressured to be happy during the holidays.