How To Cope With Depression During The Holidays

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) If you are feeling a little stressed out this time of year, you are not alone! The holidays can generate a lot of uncomfortable feelings for people (for different reasons). There are however coping techniques to help you make it through the season.

Tribune News Service

Do you feel depressed and shaky this time of year? Do you dread the short days, long nights and having too much time to reflect on your anxieties?

Most of us know the pain of feeling empty and depressed, but the holidays can trigger a lot of strange emotions.

However, if you count your blessings and stop reflecting on your losses, this will help.

Extra stress can come from having these types of situations: tension between two family members, estranged family members who’ve not visited in years, newly blended families bringing tension to your extended family, ex-spouses who won’t cooperate for the children’s sake during the holidays, and financial stress.

“If my finances were better and I had a loving family, I’d be in a very good mood,” says a woman we’ll call Trisha. “But I am working two jobs, and I got divorced this past summer. Happy people I see while I’m out shopping make me feel like my life has gone off the rails.”

All of us, without exception, will have very low points in our lives. We all will suffer physical and emotional stress, lost relationships, and financial jolts from time to time.

The secret to making things turn around is to deal with the pain head on. These tips can help:

-Don’t overdo when you’re already stressed. Give yourself a break. For example, don’t try to keep a perfect house, shop for perfect gifts, or compare yourself to others. Tell yourself, “I’ll find some small comforting things to do for myself. I will take time to enjoy life.”

-Realize that winter months can cause depression. Staying out of the sun can adversely affect brain chemistry in a number of ways. If possible, go outside in the sun for a few minutes every day.

-Plan something to look forward to. For example, find three old movies to watch over the next two weeks at home. Or, invite one or two people to have a meal with you.

-Take hold of your biggest problems first. For example, if you are behind in your mortgage, be proactive. Call your lender and see if you can work out a catchup plan or a way to refinance for a lower payment. Don’t give up until you develop a workable plan.

-Stop trying to control all family relationships. For example, if your son isn’t speaking to his ex-wife, don’t throw gasoline on the fire. Allow him to work out the problem himself. If your daughter is angry with her sister, allow the two of them to work it out. Step back and take yourself out of the fracas.

Staying in peace yourself is setting a good example for everyone in your circle of life. While you don’t want to become an ostrich with your head in the sand, do stay calm and take steps to keep the holidays joyful.

“Last Christmas, my son’s ex wouldn’t let me see our grandchildren,” says a friend of ours we’ll call Peggy. “I didn’t let this wreck me, although I could have. Instead, I continued to tell my son everything would eventually work out. And it did. The grandchildren are here at my house this year, thank goodness.”

Peggy continues, “Part of getting through the craziness of life is to stop reacting to it. Instead, take the high road and figure out what’s going to work in the long run. Peace starts inside yourself.”
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe, Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

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