One of the most debilitating things about depression is this: Things that you used to know about yourself no longer seem true, and new things that you don't like do seem to be true. It's part of the depression. Things that used to be joyful or funny seem trite or trivial, while things that used to be small irritants can seem huge and anxiety-producing.
A lot of the symptoms of depression (and social anxiety, and agoraphobia, which is a fear of going away from home or familiar places) can be aggravated during the holidays. We spend so much time during the holidays changing things -- putting up decorations, shopping, running errands, making lists, attending holiday gatherings -- that it can feel like a non-stop hamster wheel to someone for whom one outing a day is a challenge. People who are affected with Seasonal Affective Disorder are trying to accomplish all this during the time of year when daylight -- and their mood -- is most fleeting.
And getting together with family can be difficult for people who are mentally well! So those who are coping with depression, chronic anxiety or other disorders feel the difficulty is magnified. There is often a lot of wishing that everything would just "get over with," and there can be very little enjoyment of things that used to bring smiles.
The Mayo Clinic has a list of things that people can do during the holidays to help them cope with stress and depression. A lot of it has to do with being realistic, understanding the three main trigger points and planning ahead to help alleviate them:
1. Relationships. Family tension is often at its peak during the holiday season, especially when getting together from long distances or after a lot of time has elapsed. We all rub up against what our original "role" was in the family, and that can cause conflict so quickly it's surprising.
2. Money. Spending is a stress; overspending is an even bigger stress. We are very aware at the holidays that we want to do more but can't; or that we can do more but don't want to; or that we feel "required" to do so much that we don't have control over our own financial situation.
3. Logistics. The sheer energy it takes to shop, cook, wrap, socialize, mail, decorate, celebrate and clean up is huge. Again, it can feel like way too much to an ordinary person; someone dealing with depression or anxiety can get overwhelmed even more quickly.
Here's a link to the Mayo Clinic page, where it offers 12 tips on coping with the holidays and preventing more stress or depression:
And here's a page from Self Counseling.com on managing the holidays and nurturing yourself through them:
Do you respond well to the holidays? Or are they a challenge, a bit of an endurance test? Do you have things you do to take care of yourself?
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