Although some mental health statistics about the holidays are false (suicide rates are actually lowest from November to January), it can be a stressful, depressing time for many. Even those who say they feel happy and loved during the holidays also report feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and more. In this post, we look at common scenarios and describe how to handle holiday depression.
Feeling Socially Isolated Often Causes Depression
The holidays are famous for family gatherings and lots of parties. For many of us, though, family is spread far and wide. What’s more, social circles often become smaller with age, particularly after retirement. For these reasons, it’s common for people to feel socially isolated.
When this happens, people tend to withdraw, which just leads to feeling even more disconnected and lonely. They may also feel that everyone but them is having fun and being happy.
How to Handle Feeling Isolated
The fastest way to feel less lonely is to reach out to others. If you do have family or friends nearby, give them a call. Don’t wait for someone to call you or make plans.
You can also find that feeling of community within your actual community. Get involved, volunteer your time, join a club or group. You have loads of options available, you just need to know to look for them. For example, there’s a site called MeetUp where you can find others in your area who have similar interests or hobbies.
Grief and the Holidays
If this is your first holiday season after the loss of a loved one, you likely feel that loss keenly right now.
Handling Grief During the Holidays
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your feelings. Feeling sad is normal at any time. Allow yourself to cry or express those feelings in whatever way works for you. If you have a support group or grief counselor, don’t neglect those sessions. You may even want to schedule an extra session.
This is another situation in which volunteering helps you, too. Doing things for others takes us out of ourselves. Volunteering can be formal, such as working with the homeless, but it can also be as simple as raking your neighbor’s yard or shopping for gifts to donate to a children’s charity.
Feeling Overwhelmed May Cause Holiday Depression
Normal life doesn’t end just to make room for the holidays. You still have all of your regular chores and responsibilities, only now there’s extra shopping, cooking, events, and more. Feeling overwhelmed during the holidays is very common.
How to Handle Feeling Overwhelmed During the Holidays
The first step is to plan, particularly if your typical schedule is fairly busy. Mark your calendar for which days you’ll shop, entertain, bake, etc. Design your menu for the big days and create a shopping list to cut back on those last-minute trips to the grocery store.
It also helps to remember that “No.” is a complete sentence. Often, when we agree to something we don’t want to do, we feel resentful, another stressor. And you don’t need a “good reason” to say “No.” Even if your only plan was relaxing with a good book or watching TV, not wanting to do something is enough reason not to do it.
That leads us to the final suggestion: take time for yourself. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, your mind and body need that time to recharge. Take a walk. Meditate. Enjoy a hot bath. Write in a journal. Listen to music. Whatever activity brings you peace, do it.
It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by finances, but especially the last two months of the year. Extra food. Decorations. Gifts. Travel. There are so many extra expenses and they add up quickly.
How to Handle Financial Stress
Create a budget and then stick to it. Nobody who loves you wants you to go into debt or lose sleep worrying about how you’ll pay for their gift. Would you want that for someone else?
Gift-giving on a budget may mean your family draws names out of a hat, only buying for one person. Give homemade gifts. Buy a beautiful frame at a second-hand store (or make your own) and insert a photo. Create a scrapbook, photo album, or memory book. With a bit of thought, you can come up with numerous inexpensive alternatives to the same old-same old store-bought gift.
The Holidays Never Live Up to Your Expectations
Sometimes, the most depressing thing about the holidays is that they aren’t as good as we thought they’d be. Very few holidays look like what we see on TV or in the movies. Families don’t just argue, they also change, growing and shrinking as people marry or divorce, have children or pass on. Then there are all the little annoyances. People forget to thaw the turkey. Stores run out of items. It’s normal, but it can still leave you feeling sad.
How to Manage Your Expectations
As wonderful as those old traditions may have been, it’s important to remember that families grow and change. You may have hosted every holiday gathering, or enjoyed attending someone else’s. But the real point was celebrating together, right? Being open to those changes may introduce new traditions you like even more.
Is it Holiday Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Some people experience what’s known as seasonal affective disorder, which is a type of depression caused by the changing seasons. Feelings of sadness begin in the fall and typically last through the winter. While most people feel better come springtime, others experience those same sad feelings during the spring and summer months.
How to Handle Seasonal Affective Disorder
Most people with this condition treat it through a combination of talk therapy, antidepressant medication, and light therapy (lack of sunlight is thought to be a contributing factor in the disorder).
Get Help if You Need It
If your depression persists, or you find yourself feeling physically ill, can’t sleep, or unable to face your usual routine, talk to your doctor. If you have thoughts of suicide, call 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Medicare covers annual screenings for depression, as long as the appointment takes place in a primary care setting. This means one where you can either receive follow-up treatment or a referral to a specialist.
For more information on your Medicare coverage, call us toll-free at 855-350-8101. One of our licensed agents is happy to answer your questions.