What are some reasons for the spike in anxiety and depression during the holidays?
Romance and the holiday season seem to go hand in hand. Practically every holiday movie is focused on a love story, and there are plenty of commercials depicting families and romantic partners. During the holidays, people celebrate with various types of get-togethers and celebratory parties. Each commercial or movie can be a reminder that you don’t have a partner; and each invitation a reminder that you are going alone. The lack of a romantic partner can be painful and the feelings of loneliness gets stronger and more overwhelming.
Being single can often be overlooked and not discussed during the holidays. People may not mention to their friends that they aren’t attending the party because they don’t have a date. The emotions of fear, shame, or loneliness are extremely painful for those without an intimate partner.
Loss of a Loved One:
Depression during the holidays is also impacted by the constant reminder that your loved one is no longer alive. Doing the same traditions without out them can be difficult, and starting new traditions may feel like you are leaving them behind. The change in family dynamics and holiday traditions are painful. Holidays are a special time with tradition, community, and family connection. It is extremely common to have sadness and grief around the holidays due to the loss of a loved one. Sadness, anger, and numbness can arise. The constant “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” come up, and the memories flood in, and the pain hits hard.
Strained Family Relations:
Not everyone feels comfortable and safe with their families. So, going home for the holidays can bring with it a lot of anxiety. Many people struggle with painful family feuds where it ended in a complete relationship cut-off. The wounds may take years to heal and each year the holidays can bring up the broken heart and the emptiness people have with their families. Blood may be thick, but the wounds caused by family members can be thicker.
Another reason people face depression during the holidays is when money is tight; and there can be a lot of anxiety surrounding finances at this time. The inability to exchange gifts or bring a side dish for the pot luck can become overwhelming. Often, people will opt out or miss out on joining activities during this time because of finances; and this isolation can bring them down even more. People often will not tell their friends or family that they cannot attend activities due to finances, or that they won’t come to a celebration because gifts are expected and they don’t have the funds. During the holidays, the feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem can take a nose dive for the worse.
So what can you do to combat this?
Don’t Isolate or Hibernate:
Even though all you may want to do is isolate, hibernate, and avoid people, it can actually back fire and cause more loneliness and depression during the holidays. Just getting out of the house is a good start if you’ve found you have already started to hibernate. Take a walk to the store or coffee shop during the day to get some sun, exercise, and interactions with others. Say yes to at least one invitation, even if you don’t want to. Instead of isolating, spend time with your friends, coworkers, and/or family. Better yet, volunteer your time to give back to community. Not only will you be helping yourself feel better, you will also be helping others – it is a win-win.
Talk About It:
If you are having problems with someone in your life, talk about it. Pretending everything is fine does not give you time to heal or repair relationships. Talk about how the problems are impacted by the holidays, and how the holidays are impacted by the problems. The more you can make sense of what is going on, the more you can take control and enjoy this time.
Family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors aren’t typically trained on how to have the talk about depression and how it is impacted during the holidays. However, reaching out and letting your loved ones you need support can help you get through this time. Again, pretending like everything is fine is not going to help, and this includes talking about yourself. If you don’t talk about it, you won’t be able to address it. The more you talk about your depression or anxiety, the more power you take away from it. If you are struggling, let a close friend or family member know, and consider seeking professional help. Set up a check-in system with a friend or family member so you will have someone reaching out to you over the holidays.
In the Moment Coping:
To get through the holidays, it is important to have some coping strategies in mind for when you are joining in the holiday get-togethers.
Phone a friend:
If you are filled with anxiety or deep sadness, call a friend immediately. It is better to have someone on the other side of the phone rather than being alone. If you are depressed, or feel depressed around the holidays, set up a check-in system with a friend. Contact each other each day to remind each other that you are supported and not alone. Make time meet up in person with a close friend during this time.
If symptoms are severe and you are suicidal, call 911.
Using grounding techniques can help take you from feeling out of touch with yourself and back into the moment. With anxiety, you often feel like our thoughts are flooding through our minds and it can become overwhelming. With depression, you can feel so out of touch with yourself you feel numb. Grounding techniques help bring us back to the moment and bring us back to ourselves.
- Do a guided meditation
- Deep breathing exercises
- Breathe in for 5 seconds, pause for 4, breathe out for 7
- Take a moment to take in your five senses:
- Name 5 things you see
- Name 4 things you can touch
- Name 3 things you can hear
- Name 2 things you can smell
- Name 1 thing you can taste
- Pop bubble wrap or blow bubbles and try to think only of what you are doing.
- Listen to your favourite song – paying attention to each instrument and again try to think only of this song.
- Light a candle and focus on the smell and watch the flame flicker. (Lavender, chamomile, and eucalyptus all are known for having calming properties.
Avoid the Booze!
Alcohol is deceiving. It gives temporary relief, yet is a depressant and makes things worse. Try to either decrease or avoid alcohol while you are getting through the holidays.
Write it Out
Sometimes it is difficult to figure out exactly why you feel anxious or depressed. Writing about your feelings can help you understand it better. It can also act as a release valve letting out some steam. It is a healthy way to deal with your emotions.
Anxiety and depression during the holidays can be tough, setting up an appointment with a therapist can help you get through it.
Article by Sarah O’Leary, AMFT#123449 (supervised by Nicole Asencio, PsyD, LMFT#99795)
Single During the Holidays? How to Stay Merry
1. Don’t Turn Down Invitations
Just because you don’t have a date doesn’t mean you can’t attend holiday parties! In fact, a party might be just the place to meet someone special. Even if you don’t meet any other singles, you can still relax with friends and family and share some memories. It’s important not to let your singlehood hold you back from socializing – there’s no rule that says single people can’t have just as much fun, if not more, at holiday shindigs.
2. Focus on the Positive
Rather than focusing in on what you perceive to be the negative aspects of being single during the holidays, think about the good things. For instance, when you’re single during the holidays you can attend all of the parties and celebrations that you want to go to…no missing your best friend’s dinner party because you get dragged to a boyfriend’s boring office party. You can also spend the actual holiday with your own family, with no discussion about splitting time with someone else’s family. Not buying gifts for a significant other means you can spoil your friends and family that much more!
3. Take Care of Yourself
Use the holidays to build a stronger you. Don’t tear yourself down for being single. Instead, make a conscious effort to remind yourself about your good qualities and spend your free time doing things that make you physically and emotionally stronger. Take up yoga, get massages, and volunteer your time to a worthy cause. Feeling good about yourself will make you the ultimate partner when someone special does come along!
4. Laugh Off Pushy Relatives
If you have a nosy aunt that is always asking when you’re going to get married, or siblings that give you a hard time about being single, make an effort to smile through it. Chances are, the quicker you assert that you’re happy and change the subject, the sooner the awkward moment will pass. If your family just can’t take a hint, tell them directly to stop asking about it. Overall, the easiest way to get through it is just to laugh it off as nosy relatives and not take it to heart. Your family means well, it might just come out in an annoying way! Make a game of it, counting how many times someone asks you if you’re still single, and write funny texts to your friends about it to keep your mood light.
The holidays should be a happy time, whether you’re single or in a relationship. If you find yourself without a significant other during the holiday season, focus on the positive, and you can still have a blast!
Overcoming Holiday Conflict with Family
The holidays are supposed to be a time of good cheer and bliss. But, as we all know, this time of year can also be very stressful. For some people, it can even be overwhelming. If you have conflict with your family, the holiday season can be especially frustrating. Memories of bad holidays from your childhood come to the surface, you find yourself in the same room with relatives you avoid all year, and emotional pain bubbles up.
Here are some tips for how to handle painful elements in your family this holiday season.
Sometimes an unexpected encounter with a family member or not knowing how long you have to spend at Christmas dinner can bring about anxiety. Have a plan for how long you will stay at events and create an exit strategy in advance. Drive yourself so you can leave when you need to. Also prepare mentally for how you will deal with difficult family members or the holiday conflict. Come up with some responses in your mind to questions that make you uncomfortable – when are ready to handle pointed questions it might be easier to stay calm and stop an argument from happening.
Make Necessary Adjustments
If being around certain family members is just too painful right now, give yourself permission to make changes to your regular holiday routine. Avoiding issues won’t make them go away, but at the same time it might be necessary to cut a three night stay at your parent’s home to one night only. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable having everyone to your own home, ask your sister to host this year.
Take Care of Yourself
Remember to take care of yourself this time of year. Holiday conflict with family cut deep, and if seeing people at the holidays reignites past hurt, don’t hesitate to see a counselor or give yourself other self care. Meditation, a day at the spa, or a second Christmas with close friends are all ways to treat yourself and balance the negative emotions that bubble up.
For many people, holiday time and family can be very painful or uncomfortable. If you are facing the holiday conflict with your family, know that you are not alone. Better yet, give Estes Therapy a call and we can help you win the battle with your integrity in tact.
Down After the Holidays? 6 Tips to Overcoming Post Holiday Depression
You can beat your depression – It just might take a little bit of work.
Tis’ the season to be jolly….except no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t seem to get cheerful. You made it through the holidays, but your depression still hasn’t gone away. You might also feel even more tired, lonely, and hopeless than you did during the holiday season. Feeling depressed after the holidays can hang on way too long.
Don’t beat yourself up for being depressed after the holidays. Follow these tips to get back on track.
Many people get depressed after the holidays. Holiday music often sends the message that the holiday season is full of happy times. But as a therapist, I actually see a different side of the holidays that the music doesn’t share. In fact, this time of the year can be horribly painful for many people; it could be from relationships on the rocks and lonely nights to deep sadness or no money. No matter the reason, people can get caught in deep depressions that last long after the holidays pass.
Here are a few tips on how beat your depression:
Fake it ‘til you make it:
Put a smile on your face, speak positively, and hang out with friends no matter how bad you are hurting. Research shows that the smiles will improve how we feel inside by lowering your heart rate and decreasing stress (University of Kansas study published in Psychological Science).
It can be tempting to numb your pain, but this will only last for a few hours. The truth is alcohol is a depressant: the more you drink to feel better for a few hours, the worse it hurts you emotionally in the long run. Lay off the alcohol.
30-minutes of daily exercise:
You need all the positivity you can get right now and working out releases “happy chemicals” that can balance out your mood. Make it a MUST to have a minimum of 30 minutes a day of some sort of cardio exercise.
The “depression cure” isn’t found in your bed, so stop trying to feel better by sleeping all the time. The worst thing you can do hope that positivity will suddenly appear one day. Wake up, get dressed for the day, and get out of your house. Surrounding yourself with people increases the chances of lifting your mood versus hibernating by yourself.
Ask for help:
You may not like asking for help, but your friends or family might know exactly what you need to boost your mood or make you laugh. Reach out to a few close friends, share what has been going on, and ask if they can help you through the rough patch.
Sometimes we all need a little nudge in the right direction. Therapists are able to help you find the best route of treatment and you don’t have to fight the depression alone.
Depression hurts. Plain and simple. Remember, you won’t feel like this forever. This pain is temporary as long as you reach out for help, and people do care about you. Let others be there for you, care for you, and help you out. Do yourself a favor, and make a commitment to get working and push the sadness through one day at a time. Being depressed after the holidays is nothing to be ashamed of — better days are ahead!