The busiest time in my office is around the holidays. During the holiday depression and anxiety spike for many people. The thoughts of facing your family might feel overwhelming, talk of “cuddle weather” might be making you feel alone, or financial struggle may be making you feel hopeless.

What are some reasons for holiday depression and holiday anxiety?

  • Lacking Love and Romance: During the holidays people celebrate with various types of get-togethers and celebratory parties.  Each invitation is another reminder that you don’t have your plus one and you are going alone. The lack of a romantic partner can be painful and the feelings of loneliness gets stronger and more overwhelming. If you are single facing this holiday season, we have a guide to help you through it.   
  • Loss of family: Holiday depression is also impacted by the constant reminder that your loved one is no longer alive.  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. Whether it’s a recent loss or not, grief counseling during this time can be especially helpful in warding off holiday depression.
  • Family Feud: Sadly, 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. Even if you aren’t cut off from your family, facing them may bring up old wounds. You can read about strategies to cope with your family during this time here.
  • Lack of funds: Another reason people face holiday depression during is because of financial strain. Their inability to exchange gifts or bring a side dish for the potluck can become overwhelming and depressing.  During the holidays, the feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem can take a nosedive for the worse. Don’t let money being tight stop you from keeping up date night – check out our free (or cheap) date night ideas in San Diego.  

Additionally, is there one reason in particular that you see that doesn’t get talked about as much: 

  • Ongoing Severe Depression: One issue that isn’t typically talked about is the severe depression that some people battle. 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.
  • Singlehood: Singlehood 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.  

What are ways that people with holiday depression or anxiety can proactively manage symptoms at this time?

  • Avoid hibernating: Even though all you may want to do is hibernate and avoid people, it can actually backfire and cause more depression and loneliness. Avoid hibernating and get out of your house.  Make yourself go to that party or happy hour, even just for an hour or two. Or even go out and bring a book to a coffee shop. Get yourself out of the house.
  • Surround Yourself with People: 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 the problems: If you are having problems with someone or about something in your life, talk about it.  Don’t shove it down and sweep it under the rug. Talk about how the problems are impacted by the holidays. The more you can make sense of what is going on, the more you can take control.  
  • Bring a Friend: For the singles, figure out which friends you can take to the holiday parties. Talk to your friends ahead of time.

What are some in-the-moment coping skills people can use during the holidays if symptoms flare?

  • 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 symptoms are severe and you are suicidal, call 911.

Some other resources include:

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org                           https://up2sd.org/hotline

(800-273-8255)                                                                     (888-724-7249)

  • Grounding: Get some grounding techniques:
    • Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Pay close attention to everything you hear around you. Listen to the garbage truck across the street, the birds chirping, the footsteps of people passing by. Stop and focus on each thing you hear. Then start to focus on what you are feeling in your body. Feel your feet on the ground. Feel the breeze against your skin. Feel your hands in your lap. Move on to smells. Try to identify what you are sensing.
    • Trace your hands against the physical outline of your body. Experience your own presence in the world. You can start as small as just tracing your hands.
    • If you are feeling stuck, make movements and pay attention to each one. Whether that means wiggling your fingers or toes, or taking a walk (to the watercooler or down the street). Be present in what your body is doing right now. You are in control.
  • Avoid the Booze: Alcohol is deceiving.  It gives temporary pain, yet is a depressant and makes things worse. Try to either decrease or avoid alcohol while you are getting through the holidays. If you’re uncomfortable not having something in your hands or to sip on, switch to something non-alcoholic like sparkling water or iced tea.
  • Talk about it: People believe that if you talk about the feelings, it will make it worse. That isn’t actually the case. The more you talk about the depression or anxiety, the more power you take away from it.  
  • 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. 
  • Start writing what’s on your mind. Keep writing. Write everything that is going on – all the bad that you are feeling or predicting for the holidays. Then, slowly tear this paper up, imagine the negative energy being released away from you with each tear. Keep ripping – or even burn the paper in a controlled environment.
  • Lavender Oil:  Take a deep breath of lavender oil in a warm washcloth.  Lavender is known for the calming elements.

 

Facing the holidays can be tough, but you’re not in it alone. Don’t isolate yourself, and if you are feeling anxious about how you are going to handle the holidays start talking to people as soon as you can. You don’t have to talk about these anxieties right away, but start strengthening that bond and the habit of talking to someone so when things do get tough you’ll find it easier to reach out.

Contact a therapist sooner rather than later. Then when something arises not only will you be more comfortable and your therapist already knows your background, but you will also already have some tools to face these obstacles before they come up.

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