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28 Ways to Have a Great Holiday Even with Depression

by Natasha Tracy B.Sc  -  December 20th, 2021

Photo Credit: by Laura James, Pexels.com
Photo Credit: by Laura James, Pexels.com

Having a great holiday can be hard for many but having a great holiday when you have depression can seem almost impossible. It’s natural to think this way, after all, depression tends to make people think of the worst-case scenario. And the worst-case scenario around the holidays is that not only will you not enjoy the holidays, but they will make your depression worse. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. While the holidays can be hard on your mental health, taking steps now and throughout the holiday season can make for a holiday with depression that is better than you might think. Check out this list of 28 ways to have a great holiday even with depression.

Planning Early for a Great Holiday, Even with Depression

These planning events can take place sometime before the holiday. Keep in mind, while there are eight early-planning steps, you don’t have to do them all for them to be helpful.

1. Be realistic about the holiday. One of the things that can cause stress and make depression worse during the holiday is unrealistic expectations. Remember, perfection is impossible, and your holiday won’t be perfect either. The people around you are also imperfect. Adjust your expectations to take into account what will actually happen and not just what you unrealistically imagine.

2. Understand the holiday is about you, too. Yes, the holiday is about families, friends, kids and others, but it’s also about you. It’s also about what you need, and what you want. Prioritize yourself to have a great holiday with depression.

3. Make a list of what you want out of the holiday. When you approach the holiday, think about what would make it the best holiday possible for you. Would you like to go caroling? Would you like to volunteer somewhere? Would you like to spend time relaxing alone? Would you like to attend every party? Would you like to look at Christmas lights? If you’re not sure what you want, consider what might lessen your depression during the holidays.

4. Make a plan to incorporate what you want into the holiday. Once you’ve considered the above, think about how you can work those things into your holiday plans. Make those things the focus of your holiday.

5. Make a list of what you don’t want out of the holiday. What you don’t want out of a holiday is just as important as what you do want. Of course, you don’t want your depression to get worse, but what does that mean in concrete terms? Do you want to limit family time? Do you want to go to fewer events where you have to socialize? Think about what hasn’t been great for you in past holidays and make a list.

6. Make a plan to avoid what you don’t want. Make a plan early for how to avoid what you don’t want out of the holidays. Don’t wait until the last minute to turn down an invitation or change plans. Giving other people notice as to what you plan on doing or not doing will help make the news easier to digest.

7. Make a budget and plan to stick to it. One of the things that can make depression worse over the holidays and beyond is going into debt. Make sure you pick a reasonable budget for you and stick to it.

8. Plan on saying “no” if you need to. You may have to say “no” to some holiday events based on what you truly want. Limiting your commitments is okay. Plan on how you will say “no” so that you feel comfortable doing it when it comes up.

Try This Just Before the Holiday with Depression

Consider making these plans as the holidays are getting underway.

9. Plan on getting out and doing something. Depression may tell you to stay indoors, shut the blinds, and not see a soul. This isn’t the best idea at any time of the year, though. Make sure you plan on doing something outside of the house, no matter what. Maybe plan out the route you want to walk or drive to see the Christmas lights – it’s free and it’s hard to feel worse standing in front of them.

10. Plan on getting or making the food you like. Food is a big part of the holidays. Sometimes our families serve our favorite foods, sometimes they don’t. If your favorite foods aren’t already part of the plan, make sure you put them there. And remember, it doesn’t have to be turkey and stuffing; if pasta and asparagus are what you enjoy, then make sure to buy some of that.

11. Plan on seeing the people you care about. Everyone’s holidays fill up fast so make sure you get some time with the people you care about by getting on their schedules early. And remember, this doesn’t have to be family. People you care about can be anyone in your life.

12. Plan when you will do specific activities. Your depression can get worse over the holidays if you feel overwhelmed. Avoid this by planning when you will do thinks like shopping, cooking, cleaning, baking, and so on ahead of time.

13. Make sure you have enough medications on-hand. Pharmacies can close over the holidays, so, if you’re taking medications for your depression or even birth control, make sure you have enough to see you through the holidays.

During the Holidays with Depression

These suggestions for during the holiday may help with depression. Keep in mind, though, you don’t need to try them all – just try the ones that work for you.

14. Acknowledge your feelings. No matter what you’re feeling are about the holidays, take a moment to acknowledge it. Even if your feelings aren’t like other people’s, even if your feelings are dark or depressed, they are not wrong. Feeling bad about feeling bad isn’t necessary and will only make you feel worse. Acceptance of your feelings will make them easier to deal with.

15. Put up some decorations of your choice. The season may be about Christmas trees, shiny baubles, and menorahs but that doesn’t mean those are the things with which you must decorate. Choose what you enjoy and adorn your living space or help someone else adorn theirs.

16. Make a playlist you will enjoy. True, Mariah Carry’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” may be traditional at this time of year, but that doesn’t mean it has to top your playlist. Make a playlist of artists and songs that will make this time of year easier for you. Consider sharing your playlist with others. You never know who might feel just like you.

17. Reach out to others. Even if you haven’t planned any social gatherings, it’s still important to reach out to other people. Being alone for the entire holiday is unlikely to make you feel better. You don’t have to be a social butterfly but reaching out can help. If you can’t get a hold of your personal connections, don’t forget religious groups, community groups, online support groups, and helplines are always there for you too.

18. Focus on the good. Of course, not everything that happens during the holidays will be great, but you can focus on what is good as focusing on the negative can worsen depression.

19. Limit media consumption. The media can be depressing to many people at the best of times. If you find the holidays challenging already, limit your media consumption to avoid this factor that can make it even harder.

20. Set aside differences for the holidays. When families get together, especially members that don’t see each other very often, differences can create friction. However, for the sake of everyone’s holiday, try to accept people as they are. Remember, the stress of the holidays can make friction more pronounced on your part and their part, so it’s best so try to handle differences at a better time.

21. Make sure and maintain your depression treatment. If you’re being treated for your depression or another mental illness, make sure you continue to take your medication like antidepressants or antianxiety medications as prescribed. Also, make sure you continue to attend your therapy appointments.

22. Don’t abandon other healthy habits. Many healthy habits like exercise and getting a good night’s sleep help to mitigate depression all year long so don’t give up on them during the holidays. Also, try to eat healthily when you can, get sunlight every day, if possible, try deep breathing exercises or yoga, and limit drugs and alcohol intake.

23. Take a break from holiday frivolities. Make time for yourself. If you have a plan as above, this will be easier, but even if you don’t have a plan, take breaks when you need them. Take a walk and stargaze, listen to music, read a book, or meditate.

24. Make plans for after the holidays. If the holidays are really getting you down, make plans for what you’ll do when the holidays are over. Focusing on that positive future time can help lessen the holiday’s effects on your depression.

25. Seek professional help any time you need it. It’s okay if the holiday doesn’t go as planned and you don’t feel holly jolly. Maybe your depression even starts to get worse. If this happens and you need help, don’t hesitate in seeking it out. Talk to your doctor, a therapist, a helpline, or another kind of mental health professional as soon as possible. (And remember, you don’t have to be suicidal to call a helpline. They are there to talk about anything and everything.)

After the Holidays with Depression

No matter how carefully you’ve planned or how well things went, you may need a few things after a holiday when you have depression.

26. Plan on self-care. You may find that your depression is worse after the holidays or that you’re just plain worn out. Use self-care as much as possible to combat this effect. Anything you do that takes care of you and your needs counts as self-care.

27. Take a break. You may need a break from social engagements or any other type of activity that you got your fill of over the holidays. This is okay.

28. Talk to a professional, if needed. If the holidays went poorly and your depression is worsening, talk to a mental health professional immediately.

Sources

1. Mayo Clinic Staff, “Stress, Depression and the Holidays: Tips for Coping.” Mayo Clinic, Dec. 11, 2020.

2. Worth, T., “14 Tips to Beat Holiday Depression, According to Psychologists.” Health.com, Nov. 10, 2020.

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Disclaimer:

The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.
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