The popular Christmas carol says it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but for many people, the holidays can be a dreaded time of anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Factors like family dysfunction, money worries, and dark winter days can all make it difficult for reality to match the happy scenes we see on TV. You aren’t alone if you’re feeling down: new cases of depression spike in December, in addition to those who struggle with depression all year. Here’s how you can cope with this challenging season.
1. Stop Playing the Comparison Game
Comparing yourself to others is a sure recipe for unhappiness at any time of the year. But it’s even worse during the holidays, especially if you’re on social media like Facebook or Instagram. It can be tempting to compare your life to others and to think that you don’t measure up. Whatever you feel is most lacking in your life right now, it will almost certainly seem like “everyone” on social media has what you want in abundance. But remember that the images people show on social media are carefully curated to show everything in its best possible light. Behind those happy families and fabulously expensive gifts may be strained relationships and a mountain of debt. If you still find yourself playing the comparison game, avoid social media altogether until the holidays are over.
2. Take Better Care of Yourself
Everyone is so busy during the holidays. When you’re trying to get gifts for everyone on your list, do holiday baking and attend lots of parties, it’s easy to neglect self-care. If you usually eat well and exercise, it’s not uncommon for that to take a back seat during the holiday preparations. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, it will take a toll on your physical and mental health. Eat a healthier diet, take a brisk walk and watch your alcohol consumption. Go to bed earlier because the extra sleep will help, too. You may not feel better just from these changes alone, but they won’t be factors working against you, either.
3. Do Something Nice for Others
No matter how dark things look in your life, remember that you can still be valuable to others. You’re certainly not the only one struggling during the holidays and at other times of the year.. Take time out to do something helpful for someone else. Whether it’s rocking premature babies at the hospital, visiting seniors with no family in nursing homes, or gathering donations for the food bank, it always feels good to give back.
4. Learn Something New
It can be tough to escape the holidays. Any time you turn on the TV or leave the house, you’re surrounded by messages of holiday cheer. This can trigger bad memories and feelings of being left out. Who needs it? This is the perfect time to learn something new. The novelty of learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby will distract your brain and occupy your time. With money in shorter supply, it’s also important to note that these new activities don’t have to be expensive. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to make bread, knit or write your life story. Your new activity can carry you into the new year with a bit of momentum on your side.
5. Practice Self-Compassion
There’s a famous quote attributed to Buddha that says “you yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Many people who struggle with depression also struggle to have compassion for themselves. Instead of beating yourself up for not being happier during the holidays or for the ways in which you couldn’t do what you wanted to for others, remind yourself of your self-worth. If you are surrounded by people who love you, remind yourself of their love. But also, remind yourself of your good traits and qualities, too. Think of what you would tell a friend who was feeling down, but tell those things to yourself. You, too, deserve your love and compassion.