Coping With Depression During the Holidays: A 10-Step Guide


The holidays are supposed to bring festivity, but for many people, what they actually deliver is stress and sadness. Mayo Clinic offers the following tips for managing holiday emotions, rather than letting them control you.

  1. Accept sadness. Yes, common belief says that the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but that’s not necessarily true. If this year’s celebration will be different than past years, or you are going through an emotional time, you’ll probably feel some sadness. Allow yourself space to grieve and accept those feelings as natural.

  2. Don’t aim for perfection. Not every holiday celebration will look like a picture from a magazine. In fact, not every holiday celebration will look like last year’s. Sometimes things change, and that can be hard to deal with. However, instead of focusing on what you’ve lost, make new traditions and look for the blessings that your new celebrations bring.

  3. Surround yourself with others. Loneliness can exacerbate feelings of holiday stress and depression, especially if the reason you’re struggling is that you can’t spend the season with the people you love. However, it’s important not to isolate yourself. Reach out to others, whether that’s friends and family or new acquaintances. Get involved with local groups, such as social clubs or religious organizations, or volunteer with an group that helps others.

  4. Be a peacemaker. Family togetherness often leads to family fighting. Do your part to keep the peace by saving controversial topics for another day and making an effort to see past others’ shortcomings.

  5. Schedule important tasks. Planning ahead eases the last-minute scramble. Make lists of what you need to buy and accomplish. Sit down with your calendar to decide when you’ll take care of important holiday tasks, like cleaning and shopping. Take note of when important events, such as family gatherings and office parties, are happening, so you don’t double-book yourself. If you’re organizing a celebration, recruit people to help with cooking, cleaning and other prep work.

  6. Spend carefully. Make a budget and stick to it. Money doesn’t buy happiness, and neither do gifts. Buy only what your pre-established budget allows. Rather than going into debt, if you can’t afford to purchase anything, give homemade presents or bless others with the gift of time together.

  7. Set boundaries. A packed schedule will feed your stress levels. Attending every party and family gathering won’t necessarily provide holiday happiness; instead, it might just leave you feeling frazzled and resentful. Know how much is too much, and don’t be afraid to say no once your plate is full. If turning down some obligations, such as work responsibilities, isn’t feasible, adjust other parts of your schedule to accommodate the extra time you’re spending there.
  8. Stay well-rested. Instead of overbooking your schedule, set aside time for yourself. Take time every day to relax on your own. Do something refreshing that you enjoy, such as reading a book or listening to music. Make sure to get adequate sleep each night, too.

  9. Eat and drink well. The holidays are often a season of indulgence, but you’ll feel better if you don’t overdo it. Fill up on healthy foods, so you’ll be less tempted to stuff yourself with treats. Of course, no matter what you eat, maintaining a regular exercise schedule is also important.

  10. Get help. Not only can stress and depression ruin your holidays, but they also can hurt your health. Before it gets to that point, seek out professional help. A medical or mental health professional will listen to your concerns and recommend strategies to deal with your feelings.