Coping with Depression and Loss During the Holidays
As we approach the Christmas season, some of you may experience an increased depression or a heightened sense of loss. Since the holidays are a time when people are supposed to be happy, the fact that you are facing loss or experiencing depression is in sharp contrast to that cheerful expectation. If you’re a mom and you’re feeling down, you may also feel guilt about not being in a place to offer your family the joy of the season.
If you are mourning a loved one, this can be an especially difficult time. You may feel a welling of grief or anger toward the person at leaving you alone. These feelings are not uncommon.
Whether you are experiencing ongoing depression or a loss, here are some helpful tips to support you through the holidays:
- Stay connected. Seek the support of friends, family, clergy or professionals. Though it may be tempting to isolate, this is an important time to reach out and talk about your feelings with caring others. If you are going to be alone, try volunteering in a local shelter or feeding center.
- Keep a regular routine. Sustaining or creating a regular, predictable routine during this season can help you put one foot in front of the other. Whether you’re eating, exercising, working or reading, keeping a routine allows you to hold a steady rhythm and keep moving.
- Be real. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. If you are at family gatherings or Christmas parties, don’t expect yourself to be the life of the party. Your presence is enough. If someone asks how you’re doing, you don’t have to be the Grinch, but neither do you have a responsibility to be cheery for them. You can let them know that you’re going through a rough patch and look forward to it getting better.
- Avoid obligation. If you are a person who tries to make everyone else happy, you may need to give yourself permission to say ‘no.’ You do not need to say yes to every invitation and preserving time to simply be with your family is valuable. Do not lay guilt on yourself for not conforming to the desires of others. You might respond with, “Thank you for the invite. As much as I’d love to be with you, we are needing some family time. Hope you have a great time.”
- Avoid binging. To dull the pain you may be inclined to binge eat or drink. This only increases depression as it increases guilt. In addition, alcohol is a depressant and treating depression with a depressant is not a good idea.
- Be intentional about self care. Do something you enjoy when you first get up—have a cup of tea, take a short walk, have a hot shower. Take time each day to take in a simple pleasure—notice a pretty bird, eat a bite of chocolate, have a great cup of coffee, enjoy a fragrant lotion. Let yourself absorb it.
- Set your mind on the good. Our minds are powerful things. When depressed, we tend to overfocus on the negative. Seek out encouraging words and images. Psalm 40:1-3 is a great place to start. The Psalmists knew all about depression. You will find some kindred spirits here.
Please comment and let us know other ways you have found to help with depression and loss during the Christmas season.