The holidays are often celebrated as “the most wonderful time of the year,” but not everyone agrees with this sentiment. Many people suffer from holiday depression, which can make an otherwise happy time feel dark, stressful, and lonely. If you have loved ones who experience profound feelings of anxiety or sadness during this time of year, here are a few things you can do to help them get through the holidays.
1. Become a Support System
Combatting depression on your own can be overwhelming, but having a good support system can make it more bearable. Although it can be hard to consistently be there for someone who has holiday depression, your support can make a world of difference. To avoid becoming drained and worn out yourself, try to include as many friends and family members in your support system as possible. That way someone else can step in to offer encouragement and support when you start to become overwhelmed.
2. Acknowledge Your Loved One’s Feelings
When you don’t suffer from depression yourself, it can be hard to be compassionate. Instead of trying to force happiness and cheer on your depressed loved one, take the time to acknowledge his or her feelings of sadness. Let him or her know that it’s okay to feel sad and give him or her the chance to express negative feelings in a safe and loving environment.
3. Eliminate Holiday Expectations
Oftentimes, inflated expectations can cause individuals to feel anxious and stressed out during the holidays. Help relieve some of this stress by eliminating inflated holiday expectations. If you are planning to have one or more holiday parties, make sure your loved one knows he or she is welcome to come, but is not expected to be there.
If your loved one is too anxious or depressed to come to holiday parties, never make him or her feel guilty for missing out. Instead, celebrate with him or her in less stressful ways, like visiting on a one-on-one basis, sharing pictures or enjoying a low-key holiday meal that you have prepared.
4. Change Things Up
Holiday depression can sometimes be triggered by traditional activities that happen every year. If you know your loved one always gets sad when it’s time to open presents, try doing things a little differently this time around. Instead of opening presents, consider planning a holiday vacation or a day of service. Changing things up and avoiding situations that cause anxiety or depression is a great way to conscious of your loved one.
5. Encourage Stress-Relieving Activities
Your family member or friend may not want to go out and participate in popular activities during the holidays, but it’s important to get him or her out of the house when possible. Start by encouraging simple stress-relieving activities, like getting a massage, listening to soothing music or taking a nighttime walk around the neighborhood.
6. Seek Professional Help
Unfortunately, preventing depression during the holidays is not always possible, especially if the condition is severe. If your loved one has lasting feelings of hopelessness, anxiety or irritability, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
At Mazzitti and Sullivan, we offer counseling services for mental health issues, including holiday depression. To schedule an initial assessment, fill out our online form or give us a call.