Depression During the Holidays: 6 Causes and Powerful Coping Strategies

depression during the holidays

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The holiday season is a time of extreme delight and joy for some, but depression during the holidays can also be common. Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, fatigue, worthlessness, and difficulty concentrating.

Depression in Depth

During the holidays, depression may manifest itself differently than it does the rest of the year. Common signs and symptoms include excessive sadness, anxiety, irritability, feeling overwhelmed by social obligations, sleeping too much or too little, loss of interest in activities, difficulty focusing, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, changes in appetite or weight, and thoughts of self-harm.

It can be challenging to connect with family and friends, leave you feeling isolated, take away your desire for holiday traditions that used to bring you joy, and cause you to feel less motivated or excited during what used to be the happiest time of year.

Researchers have found that depression is connected to an imbalance of “feel good” hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. So, depression is more than feeling down or sad; it can significantly affect one’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks and enjoy life. It comes with multiple physical and mental symptoms. Depression during the holidays may manifest in feelings of loneliness, guilt, exhaustion, worthlessness, and high amounts of stress. Therefore, it’s important to recognize depression symptoms and take steps to cope with them.

Causes of Depression During the Holidays

There are many possible causes of depression during the holidays including (but not limited to):

  • Social pressure: the holidays can be incredibly overwhelming, with parties and family gatherings that feel like an obligation to attend rather than something to look forward to. This pressure can be even harder to manage if you’re already feeling down or overwhelmed.
  • Financial strain: the holidays are often expensive, and if you’re struggling to make ends meet, it can cause stress and depression.
  • Unmet expectations: the holidays don’t always go as planned, and if you have high expectations that are not met, depression can set in.
  • Grief and loss of loved ones: if you’ve recently lost a loved one, the holidays can be a painful reminder of their absence, and depression can set in.
  • Overindulgence: it can be easy to overindulge in food, drinks, or activities during the holidays. This can lead to depression due to guilt and shame associated with the behavior.
  • The change of season or the shorter days: people are more likely to be affected by depression during winter due to the lack of sunlight and shorter days.

Coping with Depression

If you’re feeling depressed during the holidays, there are ways to cope:

  • Maintain a routine: holiday depression can create an urge to hibernate and cancel plans, but try to maintain structure to keep depression at bay. Doing physical activities like taking a walk or doing yoga can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Get enough rest: sleep can help to regulate moods, which can be disrupted during depression. Make sure you are getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.
  • Create a holiday plan: make an itinerary to ensure you are able to stick to your budget, as well as make sure to avoid over-scheduling yourself.
  • Reach out: don’t be afraid to reach out to those close to you for help and support. Spending time with family or close friends can provide emotional and mental relief during depression.
  • Create a self-care plan: take some time for yourself to focus on activities that bring you joy. This can be anything, like reading your favorite book or listening to music.
  • Practice self-compassion and gratitude: write down things you are grateful for every day, even if they seem small. This can help to foster positive thinking and reduce depression symptoms.
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself: don’t try to do everything – focus on enjoying the things that bring you joy.
  • Get regular exercise: exercise has been shown to improve moods and overall well-being.
  • Get enough rest: holiday-related stress can often lead to sleep deprivation, which can make depression worse.
  • Seek professional help if necessary: if your depression is severe or doesn’t improve after a couple of weeks, it’s essential to seek professional help. There is no shame in asking for help when depression starts to take over.

How to Be There for a Loved One with Depression

It’s also important to be mindful of those around us who may be dealing with depression during the holidays. Consider checking in on your loved ones and letting them know you’re there for them if they need it. Be prepared to listen to their worries and struggles and give support and encouragement. You can also offer assistance with holiday tasks or help arrange a meal for them.

For those looking to support loved ones dealing with depression during the holidays, it’s important to be understanding and patient. Listen to their needs and be there for emotional support. Offer your time to help them with activities they may not feel able to do independently, like grocery shopping or sending cards. Provide distractions to help take their minds off depression.

Some other ways you can be there for loved ones who struggle with depression during the holidays are:

  • Offer emotional support and understanding: let them know that you care and are there for them no matter what.
  • Encourage self-care: Remind your loved one to keep up with activities and hobbies that bring them joy, like going for a walk or looking at art.
  • Check in often: let your loved one know you are there for them even if depression has them feeling disconnected from the world.
  • Help them stay organized and manage their schedule: this can help decrease stress levels during the holiday season.
  • Avoid judgmental comments or criticism: remember that depression is an actual medical diagnosis that should be treated respectfully.
  • Encourage them to participate in activities they enjoy: this can help boost their mood and relieve negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Offer virtual gatherings: if depression makes it too difficult to leave their home, offer a virtual gathering or conversation with them.
  • Encourage them to get help if necessary: if they seem like they’re struggling, suggest seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor.

If depression persists for your loved one, it’s important to urge your loved one to seek professional help. Makin Wellness is an excellent resource for depression during the holidays, with experienced mental health professionals on hand to provide support and guidance.

Final Thoughts on Depression During the Holidays

The holidays can be a time of joy and happiness, but it is important to understand that this isn’t always the case for everyone.

It’s helpful to be aware of the signs and symptoms depression can have during this time. With some self-care, support from loved ones, and professional help, depression during the holidays can be managed and even overcome.

If depression during the holidays becomes too challenging to handle, Makin Wellness can help. We provide a range of services and counseling techniques tailored explicitly to depression during this time of year. Our counselors are experienced professionals and compassionate listeners who can help you work through depression symptoms and help you cope.

Call us today or book a session online to get started on your healing journey, or visit our website to learn more about Makin Wellness.

Picture of Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness research team. The content on this page is not a replacement for professional diagnosis, treatment, or informed advice. It is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before making any decisions or taking action. Please refer to our terms of use for further details.

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