In the PsychCentral article, 9 Tips to Cope With Holiday Depression, Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, writes that the holidays can create sadness and depression for many people. She believes that during this time, people can have many expectations about being happy and generous. People end up making assumptions about what they are suppose to think and feels. When thoughts and feelings don’t live up to expectations or assumptions, this can leave people feeling depressed.
She says there are a host of things that add to stress and negative emotions during the holidays. For example:
- When people worry about finances or don’t have enough money to purchase presents then this can lead to sadness. These feelings are made worse during times of economic downturn. Lancer indicates that when you can’t afford to celebrate it can feel devastating.
- The stress of shopping, planning get togethers, and cooking can be overwhelming. Especially when you already feel overworked.
- Loneliness is another issue. Lancer indicates that approximately 43 percent of Americans are single and 27 percent of Americans live alone. When others are with their families, it can be painful for those who are alone. Seventeen percent of singles are over 65 when health issues make enjoying yourself difficult.
- Missing a deceased love one can be especially painful during the holidays.
- Some people struggle with estrangement issues. When you are not speaking to a relative or don’t get along with family, this can bring of sadness and frustration.
- If you are newly divorced, the holidays can bring up reminders of happier times and accentuate your grief.
- If you are the adult child of divorce, your stress may increase due to having to visit two sets of parents.
- Trying too hard to please family members can also lead to depression. Trying to decide what to get, whom to see, and what to do, can leave you feeling guilty and like you are not doing enough.
- May people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter months, due to the gloomy weather and decreased sunlight.
In order to combat these challenges, Lancer suggests making plans in advance on how the holiday will be spent (where to go and what to do). She indicates that uncertainty can add enormous stress. Plan ahead by talking to family members about not being able to afford gifts or shop early to avoid doing things at the last minute. Make time to rest and attend to self-care. Take time to grieve if necessary. Lancer says that it is good to socialize and not isolate. She thinks it is important to do something nice for yourself as part of self-care.
Knowing the symptoms of depression can also be helpful. Some of the signs are sadness, guilt, irritability, crying, loss of interest, worthlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, isolating, changes in sleep, weight, or appetite. If symptoms persist, it is important to seek professional help.