The twelve days of Christmas are filled with joy, merriment, and good old Christmas cheer. It’s the season of love, peace, and happiness. It’s the one time of the year when we get off work, spend time with our families, dash for some last-minute shopping, eat and drink, go to parties and family get-togethers, enjoy gifts, and celebrate a perfect Christmas. But, many of us may be experiencing holiday depression.
For many of us, the holidays are a time filled with anxiety and depression. Christmas stress and anxiety can often intensify feelings of sadness among those suffering from depression. But doing a few things can help you cope with anxiety and depression.
“Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” – Calvin Coolidge
Why Christmas Can Be Depressive
“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
- Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Contrary to popular belief, a lot of people feel stress, anxiety, and depression during the holidays. And most of these people, including me, have some good reasons for hating Christmas.
If you take a good look at the way Christmas is celebrated, you will find numerous surprising reasons that can lead to anxiety instead of happiness and joy. Elements like loneliness, loss of a family member, estrangement, toxic families, financial woes, work pressure, and traumatic experiences during the holiday season can add to the unpleasant feeling of stress.
Moreover, the pressure to enjoy the perfect Christmas can trigger depression and anxiety further.
Some of the most common reasons for feeling anxious during Christmas include:
- Financial worries
- Family problems
- Health issues
- Loss of a loved one
- Longing for happier memories from the past
- Christmas environment & features
- Anxiety about social situations
- Festive workload
- Excessive expectations
- Additional household chores
- Pressure for celebrating the perfect Christmas
- Commercialization of the holidays
Related: 51 Things To Do On Christmas – Alone
Many people feel isolated and anxious about social gatherings during Christmas. Moreover, others feel compelled to buy new presents, outfits, and other festive essentials that impact their already dwindling bank balance.
However, despite how common depression is around this time of year, most of us choose to suffer in silence. And those who want to speak out and seek help are unable to find any. It has been observed that during the festive season even with high demands, mental health services operate with reduced staff. Due to the lack of proper professional support, most of the requests for help are left unmet.
Coping With Holiday Anxiety And Depression
“Depression is useful. It signals that you need to make changes in your life, it challenges your tendency to withdraw, it reminds you to take action.” – Gloria Anzaldua
With stress running high inside you while the holiday cheer warms everyone else’s hearts, you need to find some effective strategies to manage your stress, anxiety, and depression on Christmas holidays to protect your emotional and mental well-being.
Here are a few tips to cope with anxiety and depression on Christmas and during the holidays:
1. Plan ahead
Make some time to figure out how you can stay in a healthy mental space during this period. Set up some restorative routines that make you feel better and note them down on a calendar. Make sure to stick to your routine despite how busy you get during the festive season.
Knowing the basics and making them a priority can be of great help. Plan ahead for shopping, cooking, and visiting family and friends. Once you know what you will have to go through, you will be better prepared to face the holiday depression, and you will find it easier to cope with anxiety.
2. Check your expectations
Have realistic expectations. There is no such thing as a perfect Christmas. So stop expecting one. This Christmas will not be like the last one nor any other that you keep holding on to. Realize that your family members are growing up and facing their own challenges, just as you are. So your family traditions and rituals will change accordingly.
Look forward to knowing your family better and creating connections instead of seeking happiness. Keep your focus on creating new memories while cherishing the old ones.
If you are invited to some social events and you’ve hyped yourself up, then you need to decide if attending the event is more important than your mental health. If you have high expectations from yourself and from social events, then you need to lower your expectations as it may leave you disappointed.
You have the power to choose how you want to spend your holiday and there is no compulsion for you to go somewhere you don’t want to. In case you are going out to a party, make sure to have a plan and an exit strategy in place, so that’s it’s easier for you to cope with anxiety and stress.
3. Follow a strict budget
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” – Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Christmas can be financially challenging which might be one of the reasons you feel depressed. This is why you need to make sure that you stick to a budget.
Decide beforehand how much you can afford to spend on shopping, gifts, and food, and then follow your budget. Buying a ton of gifts won’t buy you happiness. Instead, focus on strengthening relationships by giving thoughtful gifts, not expensive ones. This can also help you cope with anxiety and depression during this period.
4. Acknowledge your feelings
“If depression is creeping up and must be faced, learn something about the nature of the beast: You may escape without a mauling.” – Dr. R. W. Shepherd
Depression is a serious mental disorder and you need to give it all the attention you can, especially when you have no one you can share your feelings with. Understand and acknowledge your thoughts and emotions with compassion and empathy. Do not judge what you are feeling and simply try to observe with the intent of understanding what is affecting you in particular.
Grieve, mourn, cry and express your feelings as much as you need to. There is nothing wrong with feeling down just because it’s Christmas. There is no need for you to force yourself to feel the holiday cheer.
5. Spend some time with yourself
The best thing to do at Christmas is to show some love and kindness to yourself. Instead of judging or criticizing yourself, practice self-love. Make time for yourself and enjoy some downtime.
Take some time off to read a book, watch a movie, listen to some music, cook a tasty meal for yourself or do whatever you find relaxing. Self-love can heal the deepest emotional wounds.
6. Set aside grievances
“The best present on Christmas is spending some good time with family, realizing the importance of love, sharing things that give you real joy. Christmas is the time to enjoy, so have fun with your family.” – Anonymous
All of us face issues with our families and this can lead to a lot of deep emotional wounds. But Christmas is a time to set aside differences and build better bonds with family and friends. Accept your family members as they are, even if they have disappointed you.
Be compassionate and understanding with your family and show empathy if they get upset. Once you learn to use the holidays as an opportunity to build stronger connections with your family, you’ll feel a lot less stressed. Know this: family matters.
7. Reach out
“Sharing our depressions felt like having survived a war. The experience bonds you to the other person for life.” – Art Buchwald
If you feel really isolated or lonely, it can be a great idea to attend religious, community, or social events. You can find the necessary companionship and support there, especially on Christmas. Another excellent way to boost your mood is to volunteer and help others in need. This will not only lift your spirits but help you make some new friends as well.
8. Overindulgence is a bad idea
Although Christmas is perhaps the best time to indulge, but treating yourself to whatever your heart desires, despite how tempting it is, can actually be bad for your mental and emotional health.
Consuming too much caffeine or sugar-rich food can make you peak and crash in a short period of time. This can severely affect your mindset, motivation, and mood. Overindulgence is a terrible idea during the festive season, especially when you are already trying to cope with anxiety and depression during Christmas.
9. Say ‘No’ when you want to
You don’t have to say yes or agree to everything. Saying yes even when you don’t want to, will make you feel overwhelmed, distressed and resentful.
Your family, friends, and coworkers will understand if you politely refuse any invitation to participate in any activity or attend an event. Do what you really want and utilize your time the best you can instead of pleasing others. One of the best ways to cope with anxiety in this season is by prioritizing yourself and your mental health.
10. Be mindful
“ Mindfulness is life. Whenever we don’t have mindfulness, when we are heedless, it’s as if we are dead.” – Ajahn Chah
Practicing mindfulness meditation for only 10 minutes every day is one of the best ways to cope with anxiety and holiday depression.
Sit in a calm and quiet place with no distractions and take deep, slow breaths. Bring your awareness to your breath and observe your thoughts without indulging in them or judging them. Mindfulness is an effective way to find some inner peace and live in the present moment.
11. Stay active
“Keep yourself busy if you want to avoid depression. For me, inactivity is the enemy.” – Matt Lucas
Christmas anxiety can make you feel like spending the holidays in your pajamas binge-watching Christmas movies online. But you need to look after your physical health just as much as you need to care about your mental and emotional health.
Go for a walk or a run, hit the gym, take a trip to your local Zumba class or yoga studio or just dance to some jazzy beats in your room. Studies published by The Lancet Psychiatry reveal that only 2 hours of physical exercise per week can lead to better mental health.
12. Go easy on the booze
It may be tempting to go for another glass of Chardonnay, but drinking too much, coupled with the impending hangover, can actually make your stress and anxiety worse.
As drinking decreases the amount of ‘happiness hormone’ serotonin, it can affect your mood, sleep pattern, and even short-term memory. Drink responsibly and stay hydrated to cope with anxiety and depression during the holidays.
13. Take good rest
“Learn to relax. Your body is precious, as it houses your mind and spirit. Inner peace begins with a relaxed body.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Life is super busy for most of us throughout the year. So Christmas is a great time to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
Take plenty of rest as being sleep-deprived and fatigued can cause a lot of stress, anxiety and make you feel overwhelmed. Tuck into bed early and sleep for as long as you want. The best thing about the holiday season is not having to set an alarm for the next day.
14. Get professional help
If your holiday depression is affecting you excessively, then it will be wise to seek professional help. It may happen that you consistently feel anxious and depressed despite your best efforts. In such cases, visiting a doctor or a mental health professional can be a great idea.
‘The Most Stressful Time of the Year’
“I’m so depressed. Christmas is the worst of all. The holidays are terrible, worse than Sundays. I get melancholia.” – David O. Selznick
It may be the most wonderful time of the year for the rest of the world, but for me, Christmas is riddled with loneliness and anxiety. But it didn’t start out like that. I used to love Christmas and everything about it, especially the gifts. But soon things started to change as I got older.
The pressure to have a perfect Christmas and to be happy despite whatever is going on inside me did not make sense to me anymore.
And so I started to dread it. Whenever I saw the first Christmas decorations displayed in shops, I could feel the holiday depression boil inside me. My anxiety and depression eventually made me hate Christmas and I would feel like Scrooge. Or better yet like the Grinch.
The truth is, Christmas is a scary and stressful time for me that makes me even more depressed than I usually am and it’s not something I can easily explain to others who are drunk with Christmas cheer. While everyone else is wrapped in red, green, and white, I find myself stuck in the pit of blackness.
Christmas Lights In The Winter Darkness
“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” – Sir Francis Bacon
Although it can get very dark even with all the bright and sparkly Christmas lights outside, you can still choose to light the darkness inside. By taking the right measures to protect yourself from stress and depression on Christmas and during the holidays, you can find inner peace and Christmas cheer.
Identify your depression triggers and develop strategies to counter them when they come up. With the right dose of positive thinking and proper planning, you can bring joy to yourself and to the world. It will also help you cope with anxiety as well.
Stay true to yourself. Do not give in to the negative thoughts and emotions that surface inside. Do not isolate yourself. Get out of your head. Spend time with your family and friends as much as you can and appreciate the effort you’re putting in to fight this difficult battle.
Enjoy the little moments and the small Christmas miracles that bring joy to you and your loved ones.