Dealing with Depression During Holidays (or Anytime)

by | Dec 16, 2007 | Psychology | 0 comments

For most of us, the Holiday season is one of joyful anticipation. As children, we anticipate receiving presents with increasing excitement. As parents, we anticipate the happiness of our children. For those who are religious, there is the celebration of God’s blessing. And for all ages it is a time for family to gather and share.

However, for a sizable minority of us, this time of year is anything but pleasant. It has been my experience that this time of year is very difficult for many. For some, there is the remembrance of the death or injury of a loved one which took place during this time in years past. Or perhaps a serious injury or trauma was suffered directly. Many of us do not have happy memories of childhood, or of a warm and nurturing family that blesses others. Some of us are isolated from friends, family, or religion, at a time when the days are short, the nights long and cold. Perhaps the year has not gone well economically and the stress of buying presents which cannot be afforded is too great.

If, for whatever reason, you find yourself sad this time of year, here’s the deal: you are probably OK. While it’s not pleasant to be depressed or down, it is a fact of human existence that we all go through it at one time or another. Certainly, being depressed allows us to appreciate being happy, and vice-versa. So the first thing I would like to posit is that sadness is not in and of itself pathological. If you are not thinking too hard about killing or hurting yourself (or someone else), have a reasonable idea of what’s making you sad, can look forward to a time in the not too distant future when what’s making you sad will be done with, and you will be happy again, you’re probably alright. If you don’t fit into the above category, you may want to consider seeking professional advice, but otherwise, read on!

So, during this Joyous Season, you find yourself anything but. What to do? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Accept yourself as a basically good person, even if you are sad. This may seem obvious to some, but believe me there are those of you out there who will find this very difficult. But try, and keep trying if it is hard. Many people I work with tell me they have no trouble at all honestly advising their friends who are depressed that they are good people, but cannot believe it of themselves.

2) If you have some close friends, you can share with them how you’re feeling, but don’t do it too frequently or give them the idea you expect them to “fix” the problem. Most of us want to be helpful, but if we cannot help we may try to avoid a painful situation (or depressed people). Let them know they’re helping by listening.

3) Take a break. If you’re in a group with a bunch of happy people, see if you can do your best to let your sadness go for awhile and be happy too. You can go back to being sad later, and meantime you haven’t messed up their fun, they’ll be more likely to ask you out again, and you might end up having a good time!

4) Take care of your body. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, try to minimize sweets and alcohol. Exercise, walk, stay clean. Sleep when you’re tired.

5) Help someone else. Do things for others who are less fortunate than yourself, and be careful not to expect anything from them in return. You may be surprised at the power of this one!

There are lots of other things my patients have taught me about dealing with sadness, but this list should get you started. If you have other suggestions, feel free to pass them on! And if you have friends who are sad now, feel free to pass these on to them. I wish you all the best!


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