We are officially immersed in the 2020 holiday season. While some people enjoy decking the halls, those of us with depression know that the holidays can be one of the most challenging times of the year. The stress of the holidays, coupled with the pandemic, can exacerbate our symptoms of depression and leave us feeling extremely low.
We sat down with our Director of Clinical Therapy, Erin O’Callaghan, Ph.D., who offered some helpful tips. According to Dr. O’Callaghan, “It is important that those struggling with depression during this holiday season follow some important tips and guidelines to help them cope with depressive symptoms.” Keep reading for Dr. O’Callaghan’s tips for coping with depression during the holidays.
Tips for coping with depression during the holidays
Tip #1: Acknowledge your feelings & then proceed with your day.
Let yourself feel your emotions instead of avoiding or pushing them away. Then, once you’ve been mindful of your feelings, let yourself proceed with your daily routine. It is essential to let your emotions flow through you and try not to let your feelings consume your day.
Tip #2: Reach out to others for support & ask for help.
Instead of isolating yourself, reach out to supportive friends and family members who can listen to you, and provide support. It may feel like a struggle or chore to call or set up a virtual gathering, so even a brief text message to connect, such as, “Can you talk sometime today? I could use some support right now,” can help you feel better. There is no shame in asking for help if you need it.
Tip #3: Talk to a mental health professional.
Schedule additional sessions with your therapist or psychiatrist so you can get some professional guidance and support during this stressful season. If you don’t have a mental health professional, consider reaching out for these services. Click here to get connected with one of our providers today.
Tip #4: Stay active & engage in outdoor activities.
It is important to go outside daily so that your body and mind can remain active and connected to the outside world. Take a walk in your neighborhood to look at holiday decorations, or sit on the porch and listen to the birds, trees, and leaves. If you live in a city, watch and listen to cars and buses driving by, or escape the hustle and bustle and go on a scenic drive.
Tip #5: Try to maintain a routine.
During the holiday season, it can be challenging to stick with your regular schedule. However, sticking to a schedule is crucial because it helps with mood regulation. Try to wake up and go to bed around the same time and get around eight hours of sleep each night.
Tip #6: Practice mindfulness.
During any regular activity, like eating a meal or taking a walk, try to engage all five of your senses to experience that activity. For example, how does your dinner taste and feel in your mouth? What does it smell or sound while it’s cooking? What are the sights and sounds you experience while sitting on your porch?
Tip #7: Make plans.
Although difficult to do during a pandemic, it is essential to have activities or events to look forward to. Consider scheduling a video meeting with an old friend or relative to catch up. Sometimes all it takes is a friendly face to lift our spirits.
Tip #8: Try establishing new traditions.
Some traditions can’t be followed this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Remember that you can treasure old holiday traditions while also engaging in new ones too. This holiday season may be a good time to start new traditions, try new foods, or pick up new hobbies.
How to help if someone you love is struggling with depression
Despite COVID-19, it’s very important to check in on loved ones who are struggling with anxiety and depression during the holidays. If someone you love is struggling with depression, here are some ways to check-in on them this holiday season:
- Send a simple text stating that you are thinking of them and there to talk if they would like to do so.
- Call and leave a voicemail or try to video chat with them.
It is important to be understanding, patient, and accepting of your loved ones’ feelings of depression during this time. Some helpful statements of support include, “This must be a really hard time for you,” and “I am here for you and I’m available to listen and support you in whatever way you need.”
There are also some phrases and actions that are more harmful than helpful. If your loved one confides in you about their symptoms, don’t dismiss their feelings by saying, “Oh, don’t worry. Everyone feels this way sometimes,” or “You don’t need therapy! Therapy is for people with worse problems than this.”
- Don’t encourage your loved one to overindulge in alcohol as a way of coping or a way to numb their pain. Alcohol is a depressant and when people with depression and anxiety drink, it can lead to a worsening of their symptoms.
- Don’t give advice—whether solicited or unsolicited.
- Don’t take things personally.
Encourage your loved one to seek professional treatment for their depression. If they have an existing therapist or psychiatrist, encourage them to reach out to their mental health provider for additional support during the holiday season. If they are not in treatment for their depression, they should be encouraged to seek treatment. Offer to help them with setting up questions for their mental health providers or offer to attend a meeting with them if they’d like.
Here are a few helpful resources for you and your loved one:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): The nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Speak to a trained professional 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255.
The holiday season looks different for many of us this year. If you’ve been struggling with depression, make (virtual) plans with loved ones, stay active, and try to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. If you’re feeling low, be sure to reach out for support, either to a trusted friend or mental health professional. If you don’t already have an established relationship with a mental health professional, click here to get connected to one of our providers today.