I have been obsessed with Christmas since I was a little girl. There was nothing more exciting to me than having our house’s halls decked with boughs of holly, baking cookies with my mom and brother, and the warm glow of Christmas lights filling up the dull winter skies. It was pure magic. And that’s the way it should be when you’re little. In fact, I’ve felt that way up until this year. I want to feel my normal holiday cheer, but I’m just not feeling it. That once magical feeling is giving me knots in my stomach this year. I know for me this holiday depression is probably due to my 2019 being off for several different reasons. However, I’m no stranger to Christmas making me feel a twinge of sadness. As magical as Christmas felt every year for me, as I got older a little more sadness came along with that.
Holiday depression isn’t any fun. If that means you’re dealing with loneliness, loss, Christmas past, financially, or mental health – you’re not alone despite how isolating this feeling can make you think you are. Feeling sad during the holidays doesn’t make you a Scrooge or a Grinch. I was feeling frustrated with myself because I felt Christmas creeping up faster and faster this year and I just wasn’t feeling it. It felt like something was wrong with me. I wanted to enjoy my favorite carols, movies, and pretty lights but it just made me feel worse.
Instead of continuing to be hard on me, I’ve been giving myself grace. I enjoy the songs and movies that I love but in small doses. I’ve been telling myself that one hard holiday season doesn’t mean that they’re all going to be this way. One Christmas that makes me cry will not be the end of the world. It’s hard now, but there is always next year. And that’s what has been making it a little more manageable.
For those who don’t have a significant other, friends, or family to spend the holidays with it can be hard. Last year, I had a significant other that I loved with my whole heart to share the holidays with and it felt like it added even more magic to the holiday. There was always someone to do all the festive activities together and share family time with. It was heart-warming. Unfortunately, I don’t have that same luxury this year which has been the hardest part of this holiday season. Thanks, Facebook memories, and my own memories for reminding me of all the fun festive activities that I was doing last year and not this year.
It’s also just not quite the same this year because my family and I are in the processing of moving. This means we’re not all under one roof for the holidays this year or even seeing each other every day as we have for the past 22 years. It’s frustrating and makes it feel less Christmassy.
To remedy it:
As hard as it is, if you don’t make an attempt to remedy these feelings, they’ll only fester and get worse.
- Open the curtains and blinds and let the sun in. Either through the window or standing outside for only a few minutes to let the sun hit your face for vitamin D that you lack in the winter. Or pick up a sun lamp for the same effect.
- Get out of your house. Go shopping. Sit in a cafe. Run those errands you’ve been putting off. Just get moving, see other human beings and, get fresh air. It’ll help a little bit.
- Occupy yourself. Find a new hobby to start or pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read all year but you just haven’t had the time for yet. It’ll distract your mind in a healthy way.
- Call or text someone you love. It’ll make your heart and their heart smile.
- Make new memories. Start new Christmas traditions with yourself. Drown out the bad with new good. It can be scary and overwhelming but it’ll be worth it in the long run.
- Go easy on the alcohol. As much as a solid distraction alcohol can be, it can also be a bad distraction. Drink responsibly.
Loss of a family member, a friend, or a loved one is always difficult and can be a huge contributor to your holiday depression. Especially when it’s the first holiday without them. You do notice that their presence is missing. I was in third grade when my grandpa passed away and the first Thanksgiving and Christmas without him felt almost empty. There were still plenty of smiles and laughs that year since many of us were still kids, but it was harder. I vividly remember feeling angry when I saw someone else was sitting at the head of the table that year; I felt that it should have stayed empty but it was clear others disagreed with that sentiment.
To remedy it:
- It’s okay to admit to yourself and those you trust, that you miss that person.
- You do not have to feel guilty for enjoying the holiday. You can still miss someone and enjoy yourself. In fact, I’m sure whoever you’re missing would want you to enjoy yourself.
- If missing someone is too hard on you, it’s okay to put things that remind you of them away or stay away from songs or movies they loved.
- Just like it’s okay to surround yourself with that person’s memory if you miss them during the holidays.
- Express your needs to those you love – they’ll understand.
- Start new traditions. You don’t have to get rid of all traditions, but begin a new one that brings you joy.
- Slow down and don’t overcommit to things.
- Most importantly: give yourself grace and time.
Obviously, a huge part of the holidays is traditions and memories. And when those traditions are no more, it can make the season a little harder. For me, I’m huge on family traditions and I hate change. So, when our family Christmasses slowly started to change all of the sudden and then all at once, it wasn’t easy. I still miss it today but I also know why it had to change for the better. Then especially when life is harder, it can be easy to be nostalgic for Christmas past and happier memories and contribute to the holiday depression.
To remedy it:
- Create new traditions that you love and hold no memory of your past Christmas.
- Go somewhere that doesn’t remind you of Christmasses gone by.
- Retail therapy isn’t a permanent fixture to problems, but buy yourself a gift of something you’ve been eyeing all year or even take yourself on a getaway that you can afford.
Christmas has become increasingly about the gifts you buy for others and how nice of a gift it is. However, it’s not always that easy. In fact, for a lot of people, Christmas comes with financial anxiety. The constant worry of your ever-growing shopping list for friends and family and that person who brings up doing a white elephant AND a gift exchange…not all of us are rolling in dough, Sharon. If you’re worried about your financials, this can add to the holiday depression.
To remedy it:
- Create a budget long before the Christmas season begins and stick to it.
- Suggest to your family, friends, or co-workers to do a secret Santa instead. That way you only have to buy for one person rather than 10.
- Give the gift of time rather than material objects. Swap out that sweater you’re going to give to your mom and set aside a day or two to spend with each other doing things you both enjoy.
- It’s about the meaning of the gift, not the price tag. If something costs $10 but you know it’s something the person is going to love there’s no reason to spend $30.
- The holidays are about spending time with the ones you love, not what’s under the tree. Take a deep breath and don’t break the bank.
Everyone has mental health. And sometimes it can get out of order during the holidays from all the hustle and bustle. In fact, if you tend to struggle with your mental health all year long, holiday depression can really make it worse between constant get-togethers and expectations of you from your friends and family. It can be really tough.
To remedy it:
- Know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”. You do not have to go to every holiday party under the sun that you’re invited to. Pick the ones that mean the most to you. Or if you have no desire to go to any, don’t. Instead, offer to spend time with your loved ones in smaller numbers rather than a big, crowded party.
- Stay on top of your self-care and do things you enjoy.
- Keep in-check with how you’re feeling. When you’re constantly busy and on-the-go, you can put yourself and feelings to the wayside. It helps you accomplish your tasks faster, but you’ll still have to deal with the repercussions on if later.
- Watch your alcohol intake.
- If you’re in therapy, keep going as regularly as you can during the holidays. If you’re not in therapy and can afford it, please go. Therapy is good and not just benefits you, it benefits those around you.
- Keep getting sun when you can.
- Practice mindfulness and journaling.
So, just remember, if you’re feeling the “holiday blues” it’s normal. Do your best to maintain your mental health and don’t feel guilty about that. Take one day at a time. The holiday depression won’t last forever (I hope at least). Say “yes” to the things you want and not what you feel obligated to do. Learn to say “no” to the things that make you feel anxious or upset. Doing what’s best for you is the most important.
If you experience holiday depression, what are some of the ways you care for it?