The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Why depression Happens around the Holidays, and How to Fight It

The lights are twinkling, the carolers are singing and the bells are ringing, but you still feel sad. Depression may threaten to ruin your December, but there are ways to reclaim your holiday joy.

Depression During the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Depression can strike at any time of the year, but the holiday season has the potential to magnify the issue. Feeling down during what most people consider the happiest time of the year can seem like a confusing contradiction, but there are some good reasons why people struggle during the holidays.

  • Missing loved ones: Most people spend the holidays with the people they love most. If death, distance or other circumstances have separated you from the most important people in your life, it’s likely that the holidays will bring a sense of sadness and longing for these people.

  • Worrying about money: Gifts and holidays go hand-in-hand, which usually means spending money. If you feel obligated to spend more on gifts than you can reasonably afford, the ensuing feelings of stress and worry will take a toll on your mental health.

  • Longing for past traditions: Holiday celebrations are often rooted in tradition. Unfortunately, changing circumstances sometimes force us to give up the traditions we have held dear. It’s normal to feel a sense of loss and sadness over such changes.

  • Maintaining a stressful schedule: Planning menus, wrapping gifts, mailing cards and attending parties: The typically December calendar is packed with a dizzying array of activity. Overbooked schedules leave little time for self-care and emotional wellness.

Help for the Holiday Blues

The following tips on holiday depression from the Health in Aging Foundation are useful for people of all ages.

  • Do good. Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose. It also boosts your confidence, lifts your mood and fosters relationships among people with similar passions.

  • Go out. Isolation feeds feelings of depression. Being around people can make a huge difference to your mental wellness. Participate in community groups, attend religious services and accept invitations to get-togethers. Invite others into your home, as well.

  • Acknowledge your emotions. Burying your feelings under a layer of fake cheer won’t help you or the other people in your life. Admit to yourself how you feel, and understand that it’s okay not to be as happy as the people around you.

  • Use alcohol in moderation. Drinking away your feelings may be tempting, but it isn’t effective. Alcohol often abounds during holiday celebrations, but overindulging runs the risk of exacerbating depression. Keep your drinking in moderation, which the Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines as up to two drinks a day for men or up to one a day for women.

  • Share your feelings. Talk to friends or family members about your emotional struggles. Sometimes just opening up to others is enough to help ease the burden. For an extra set of listening ears, turn to a mental health professional, who will not only serve as a sounding board, but can also help you learn valuable coping skills.