Feeling depressed at Christmas is normal, even for people who aren’t depressed at other times of the year. These tips for coping with depression over the holiday season are from Dr Harold Levinson.
“Depressed people don’t always respond well to holidays and vacations where others appear happy and life seems beautiful,” says Dr Levinson. “This contrast often intensifies their own sense of inadequacy, jealousy of healthy others – and thus may worsen their feelings of depression and even anger at their own inability to ‘snap out of it’ and enjoy life as they believe they should.”
If you feel depressed at Christmas, know that you are not alone. Many people feel a pang of sadness and loneliness over the holiday season, for a variety of reasons. Are your feelings of depression are related to grief or loneliness because you recently lost someone you love? Read 7 Secrets for Surviving a Lonely Christmas. The following tips on how to cope with depressed feelings over the holiday season are geared towards people who need advice from a medical doctor….
Different tips for dealing with depressed feelings work for different people. If Dr Levinson’s strategies for overcoming depression don’t suit you, keep scrolling. I share additional tips for coping with the holiday blues after his tips.
5 Doctor-Approved Ways to Cope With Depression at Christmas
If you struggle with depression, a loved one may tell you to “snap out of it.” Though he may mean well, it can contribute to your feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Thus, a downward cycle may occur, making Christmas even more depressing.
“At Christmas, we’re are expected to be happy, joyous and delighted to share gifts and appreciate all that life offers us,” says Dr Levinson. “Depressed people who cannot meet these expectations often feel worse.”
1. Take a second look at your prescription medications
“To make sure your prescription medications aren’t negatively interacting with holiday activities, follow my cardinal rule in treating all patients: if adverse health affects occur over the holiday season, blame the medication and/or doses first,” he says. “Lower the dose and determine if negative affects are lessened. Indeed, increased doses may occasionally be needed – depending on the circumstances.
Also, alcohol, lack of sleep, etc., may negatively impact medication. Keep these factors in mind – especially if your feelings of depression or anxiety intensifies at Christmas. Anxiety may intensify depression, and vice versa.”
2. Be aware of the weather and the full moon
A natural way to cope with depression at Christmas is to pay attention to the weather.
“During the holidays or on a vacation, external variables may be crucial in affecting mood and anxiety, such as sun, cold, altitude, humidity, barometric pressures, and so on,” says Dr Levinson. “Indeed, a ‘lack of sun’ can intensify depressed feelings. And even the full moon may play a role in some individuals. By contrast, too much sun and heat may have adverse affects and thus physiologically intensify mood variability and even the responses to existing medications. In some individuals, previously helpful medications may suddenly stop working or have negative affects.”
3. Be aware of how PMS affects your thoughts and emotions
Dr Levinson says, “It’s also important to note that endocronological changes (menstruation, ovulation, etc.) may affect mood and medication/dose responses. People planning vacations over the holiday season should keep these factors in mind.”
A good way for women to cope with depression at Christmas is to remember that PMS can be an obstacle, especially if you’re sensitive to those monthly symptoms. Natural PMS treatments can help you feel better — but natural treatments can interfere with antidepressant medications, so make sure you talk to your doctor first.
4. Double-check your antidepressant medications
“Antidepressants can trigger or intensify depression and anti-anxiety medication can trigger anxiety,” says Dr Levinson. “Awareness of the above insights are crucial for people on antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications. Insight will rapidly lead to self-correction or compensatory behavior.
If your antidepressant medications are stable and you believe something more needs to change in your life, read What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better helpful. It’s a practical, helpful book on increasing happiness and joy — whether it’s Christmas or not!
5. Know your triggers
Dr Levinson encourages people (depressed or not) to remember that Christmas and the holiday season often expose individuals to transitions. You’re often leaving a known and comfortable environment to go to a new and uncertain one, and can be deal with social comparisons and disappointments, etc. Again, the more you’re aware of these factors, the more successful you’ll be in surviving Christmas depression.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Many people struggle with depression at Christmastime, and they may be waiting for you to reach out to them.
Quick Tips for Coping With Depression at Christmas
The following tips aren’t doctor-approved, but they might help you cope with depressed feelings over the holiday season:
Keep your family expectations realistic at Christmas. For example, if your family always fights or avoids contact during the holidays, then it’s unreasonable for you to expect them to behave differently this year. If your mom and dad are difficult to handle, read 7 Tips for Dealing With Controlling Parents.
Set realistic goals for yourself. Do you tend to accept too many party invitations, or take on too many Christmas-related responsibilities at work? Learn how to say no. Set boundaries, and set realistic goals so you don’t contribute to your own feelings of depression at Christmas. Pace yourself, and remind yourself not to take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
Learn the difference between “good” and “best.” It would be good to buy the perfect Christmas gift for everyone on your list, to volunteer at your kid’s school, to dress up as Santa Claus, etc etc etc. But what is the best thing you could do for yourself and your family this Christmas? Focus on that. Make a list and prioritize your most important activities. This can help make your holiday tasks more manageable – and your Christmas more enjoyable.
Watch Scrooged at Christmas – or other funny holiday movies! Scrooged is my favorite Christmas movie, and watching it always cheers me up. Christmas depression or no – I always feel better after a dose of Scrooge.
Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. If you’re dealing with a health issue this year, give yourself permission to say no to extra activities or events. Don’t allow your hopes for the season to overcome what you know to be true about your energy level, resources, time, and ability.
Avoid putting all your energy into making this Christmas the “best ever.” Instead, enjoy every unexpected conversation and connection that brings you joy and peace. Live in and enjoy the present, without anticipating problems at Christmas dinner or with family get togethers.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the “good old days.” Avoid idealizing past holiday seasons – remember that our memories are often rosier than the reality was. Let the past go. If you’re dealing with a divorce or separation, read 7 Ways to Deal With Depression After a Breakup.
Reach out to people in need. If you are lonely, volunteer to visit a senior’s home or organize a Christmas hamper for a neighborhood family. Serving and volunteering are the best tips on how to cope with depression over the holiday season.
Find Christmas holiday activities that are free, such as driving Candy Cane Lane, strolling through your neighborhood looking at holiday decorations, going window shopping without buying, and simply watching the winter weather – and really noticing the snowflakes or raindrops.
Limit your alcohol intake, since excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression at Christmas.
Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way – such as by preparing a shoebox for a child in a third world country through Operation Christmas Child. Read 10 Ideas for Your Operation Christmas Child Shoebox for more info.
Reach out and make new friends. Consider making time to contact a long-lost friend or relative and spread some holiday cheer. Don’t forget to spend time with supportive and caring people – especially loved ones who understand what it’s like to deal with depressed feelings at Christmas.
Make time for yourself – take care of yourself at Christmas. Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks, and learn how to delegate chores to family, friends, or coworkers.
Keep track of your Christmas holiday spending. Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over. Extra bills with little budget to pay them can lead to further stress and depression.
Which of these tips on how to deal with depressed feeling at Christmas do you find most helpful? I welcome your thoughts below. May you experience peace, joy, hope, and faith this Christmas season…and may all your holidays be better than you expect!