Helping Those With Holiday Depression
For most the holidays are a time of joy, but, for many, it can also be the most depressing time of year. Here are some tips if you would like to encourage someone who has lost their holiday joy.
Help Them Discover the Source of Depression
Stress -There are so many things to do: buying gifts for everyone, preparing meals, scheduling parties, visiting family, some of whom you might rather not visit. Stress produces stress-hormones in the body and as these build up they can cause our chemistry to become imbalanced causing depression.
Expectations - We believe we have to be festive and happy and make everyone else feel that way. When they or we don’t feel that way we might feel like a failure. Help your friend think through their expectations.
Finances - If finances are tight and we focus on what could happen financially it can cause obsessive thinking which will lead us into despair.
Alcohol - Many people celebrate with wine and other alcoholic drinks because they may be seen as creating a good spirit, but when alcohol is taken to excess it usually causes conflict and physical depression.
Grief and Loss - Some have lost loved ones during the year and the holidays will heighten their experience of grief. They will have a hard time not looking back at all the good times they had.
Provide Some Real-World Solutions
Review and reset your expectations. Frequently our expectations are unreasonable. We might expect everyone to be happy and when they are not we feel like a failure. It is not our responsibility to make others happy, only to provide an environment where their happiness can flower. Others are responsible for their own happiness. Expectations may be accomplishable but unreasonable. A person can only do so much, so reduce your stress by cutting back the extras, and keep cutting until you know that what you are planning is something that is doable with a good spirit. When we push ourselves too far we push ourselves into depression.
If you find you can’t cut back enough - delegate. Find a friend who will work alongside you on some of the tasks you don’t enjoy. Friendship makes life better.
Reduce your spend. My wife and I are spending an entire day making Christmas cookies which will be our gifts for the holidays. It will be fun working together; it will eliminate all the shopping; and save us money that we don’t have to spend anyway.
Keep alcohol drinking to a minimum. Nothing else needs to be said here.
Don’t look back. Live in the present. Joy only comes in the present. Reminiscing should be set aside for special times, but the holidays are not the best time. Tell yourself you will reminisce after the holidays.
If you spend the time to think through these things with a depressed friend, you will be a friend indeed and contribute to this being a great holiday for more that just you.
Larry McElvain, Founder, Discovery Counseling Center
December 2, 2019