How to handle depression over the holidays.
The holiday season is painted as a joyful time filled with wonderful memories.
This is often true! But the holiday blues are also very real. It’s normal to feel depressed when the stress of buying presents, entertaining guests, and preparing endless meals starts to pile on. With the right plan in place, you can reduce the difficulties, stay present in the special moments, and maximize the good times.
1. Keep Up with Your Diagnosis
If you already have a mental health diagnosis such as bipolar anxiety, major depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), proper stress management is key. Work with a licensed mental health provider to make sure you have the proper plan in place.
This way, you can monitor your warning signs of depression, such as decreased appetite and sleep disruptions. Being proactive can help prevent these symptoms from spiraling into a deeper depression with the hallmarks of poor mood and loss of enjoyment in your normal activities.
If you’re on medication, take some time to determine whether the regimen is working for you. If it isn’t, consult with your psychiatrist to get back on the right track.
If you have seasonal depression, it’s not just the hustle and bustle of the holidays that affect your mood. Changes in environment and reduced daylight can worsen your depression symptoms. Check out our guide for treating SAD here.
2. Try TMS
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a great depression treatment to have in place for the coming holiday season. It’s non-invasive and highly effective, and it works by stimulating the parts of your brain that become inactive during a depressive episode.
The fact that TMS is drug-free means you can avoid the grogginess and other side effects that come with antidepressants. And one session takes only 18 to 19 minutes, meaning you can fit it in between shopping and cooking and know you’re giving yourself—and your mental health—a gift!
3. Manage Your Expectations
Unfortunately, a huge part of the stress of the holiday season is the expectation that it will be perfect. If you’re hosting a party, you spend many stressful days preparing holiday foods for family and friends. If you’re a parent, you juggle buying presents with activities for your kids while they’re home from school!
For some significant stress reduction, try to do 75% of what you think 100% perfection should be. Leave perfection behind because it doesn’t exist. “Good enough” is a great target!
Once you’re able to let go of unrealistic expectations, you’ll be able to relax more and enjoy the holiday season instead of letting stress and depression run rampant. When you are more present and less focused on your productivity, you can spend more of your energy enjoying your family and friends.
To manage expectations, also make a point of staying off social media. At the very least, take what you see with a grain of salt. Remember that people almost always post the highlights of their holiday seasons and omit the difficult parts.
Sometimes social media seems tailor-made to increase depression with the power of comparison. This is amplified when the pressure of the holiday season is on.
4. Pay Attention to the Holiday Food
Depression over the holidays is stressful and can lead to stuffing yourself with holiday food, whether it’s comforting or you want as much as possible because you only get it once a year. There’s nothing inherently bad about enjoying special food!
Baking cookies and sipping on hot cocoa is (some of) the stuff holiday memories are made of. But it’s important to be aware of when you’ve crossed over from indulging to binge eating. A diet high in sugar and fat is not friendly to depression symptoms, particularly in the winter when it’s harder to exercise, and the sunlight is less available. Savor the tastes of the holiday season while also being mindful of what you need.
5. Stay Active
During the holidays, it can feel like you’re constantly on the move, but you’re probably spending a lot of time indoors and not moving your body as much as depression needs you to. This makes a gym membership or local fitness classes key for warding off holiday stress.
You can still get those feel-good endorphins going even when you’re stuck inside. And you can work off some of those holiday foods too!
6. Work on Your Relationships
Spending time with family and friends is considered the most important part of the holiday season, and it’s hard to argue with enjoying the company of loved ones. Social media and perfectionism can make it feel like all of your relationships should be harmonious this time of year.
If you have family members that don’t get along, the holidays are probably the only time they’ll interact. If you come from a divorced family, the holiday season can be especially stressful for both parents and the children. If you have no family to visit or they’re in a part of the world you can’t visit, you might feel lonely.
If that’s the case, do your best to make plans with local friends. Volunteer work is for community organizations is always welcome during the holiday season. It can help you feel connected to others while doing something positive, and friends and family might be interested in joining you too!
Your Holiday Season Is Unique to You
Rather than comparing yourself to others, demanding perfection from yourself, falling into unhealthy habits, or getting sucked into family drama, allow yourself to set up a holiday outlook that’s realistic. Remember:
Your friends on Instagram posting perfect holiday pictures have their own stress going on behind the scenes. Aim for what makes you happy and what’s “good enough.” And don’t forget that your mental health needs you; self-care is especially important during the holidays.
Interested in setting up TMS treatments to prepare for the stress of the holiday season? Give Success TMS a call at 855-943-3232 to see if TMS therapy is right for you!