Coping with depression during the holiday season
It is Christmas time and most of us will be familiar with that famous song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” But is it?
Christmas is a time filled with parties, social gatherings and celebrations with family, friends and colleagues. But for people with depression, Christmas can be a very difficult time. There are many reasons as to why the holiday season could intensify symptoms of depression including loneliness, financial pressures or family stress.
AWARE – the national depression charity for Northern Ireland has released their 10 top tips to keep yourself mentally well this Christmas. Siobhan Doherty is the Chief Executive of the charity and said,
“Christmas can be a difficult time of the year for many people. Adverts on TV portray Christmas as a time of happiness surrounded by family and friends with toys under the tree and a big dinner on the table. But for many in Northern Ireland, that is not the Christmas reality. The idea of the ‘perfect’ Christmas can be far from true and can make a person feel worse.
“The unrealistic expectation of what Christmas should be like and what it is actually like can become too much for an individual and could result in a relapse of depression or trigger the onset of depression.
“At AWARE, we have released our ‘Top 10 tips to keep yourself well this Christmas.’ These are small steps a person can take to protect themselves from additional pressure or stress as we approach Christmas.”
Top ten tips to keep yourself well this Christmas
1. Keep expectations realistic. Set yourself personal boundaries regarding the amount of money spent on gifts and the number of social events you attend. The ‘perfect’ idea of Christmas is one that makes you happy, not the one seen on TV or the front of a Christmas card.
2. Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol is a depressant and will make depression symptoms worse.
3. Go for a walk. Be mindful and take notice of the things around you such as the way the trees are blowing in the wind; how your feet feel with every step you take and the sounds of nature as you walk.
4. Eat sensibly. It can be tempting to indulge in foods you wouldn’t usually eat but this can often make you feel worse. So, whilst you can have a treat, don’t forget to eat fresh fruit and vegetables which are all stimulants for good mood.
5. Rest. The pressures and stress that come with Christmas can be exhausting. Take care of yourself by ensuring you get plenty of rest.
6. Treat yourself. You may have bought other people’s gifts, but have you treated yourself? Buy yourself something nice, something that makes you feel good and enjoy it.
7. Be honest. If you don’t feel up for going on that night out, just be honest. You need to look after you and forcing yourself to be involved in social situations may make you feel worse in the long term.
8. Take time for yourself. Make sure you take time to unwind and relax. Stay at home, put on your pyjamas and watch a movie that makes you smile. Looking after yourself is important.
9. Don’t isolate yourself. It is important that you don’t completely isolate yourself either as this could increase feelings of loneliness. Get out for a walk, visit a neighbour or volunteer for a local charity.
10. Seek help. If you are finding Christmas really difficult and you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, please seek help immediately. If you are able to, confide in someone close to you or call a 24/7 helpline such as Samaritans (116 123) or LifeLine (0808 808 8000) for advice.