The following article was written and shared by Erin (Lizzie) Kriewald, MS, LPC, CSAC, a counselor with Peaceful Solutions. NTC is pleased to provide counseling services through Peaceful Solutions for current students. For more information, please visit their web page.
With the weather turning colder and the holidays approaching, many people bustle around with excitement and happiness. For others however, this time of the year can be especially difficult and seems to last forever. Instead of being a time of year they look forward to, terms like the winter blues, cabin fever, and temporary insanity fill their heads. What follows is an explanation as to why this phenomenon can happen, and what you can do if you find yourself feeling this way.
Let’s Start Here: Why Does Depression Happen During the Holidays
- Loneliness/Social Isolation: Social Isolation can be a predictor for depression during the holidays. People who don’t feel connected tend to withdraw more, making their symptoms worse. In addition to this many compare themselves to others, or other families, again leading to an increase in depression.
- Unrealistic Expectations: Oftentimes people have a perfect picture of what holidays contain, but this often falls short of reality. We may look at friends, television shows, or movies and desire these same dynamics and feelings.
- Taking On Too Much: During the holidays people can take on too much, including work, family obligations, holiday planning, the list is endless.
- Ignoring Self Care: With the focus often being on others, people tend to neglect their own well-being during the holidays, which can profoundly impact how a person feels. It is easy during the holidays to overeat, neglect exercise, or increase the use of alcohol. Sleep may also go by the wayside as schedules tend to be overbooked.
So What Can I Do To Prevent Depression During the Holidays?
- Make Plans for the Future: If we can plan for our shortcomings, we can do our best to prevent them. For example if healthy eating and/or portioning tends to take a backseat during the holidays, focus on not binging on holiday food/meals, or make a meal plan that includes healthy options. Make exercise or sleep a priority by setting time aside each day for a workout, or mandating a bedtime for yourself. Self-care is crucial in combating depression!
- Distance from Conflict: Set boundaries with others if need be . . . even family. It is okay to cut things out if you need more time for priorities or yourself. Even just leaving a room for a few minutes can help.
- Address Grief Issues: If you have lost a loved one, holidays can pose to be especially difficult, so planning and being sensitive to how this can impact you is important. Try talking about your loss with a trusted person, or make that person’s memory part of your holiday tradition.
- Count Your Gratitude’s: Take a look around . . . there is so much to be thankful for when we search. Stop comparing yourself to others and see what you have. Make lists that you can post, and focus on what’s important.
- Get Help: Sometimes friends and family are not enough to help us get through these stressors. Do not hesitate to reach out for professional help if you continue to find yourself struggling.