Depression and the Holiday Season

defocused image of illuminated christmas lights
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

Feeling down during the holidays can be hard especially since everyone seems so happy.  Believe it or not many people who you seem happy during the holidays are also stressed and depressed.  So if the family gatherings, the endless parties, and the shopping get you down, you’re not alone. However people with depression need to be especially careful when coping with holiday stress. . Here are some tips to reduce stress and hopefully  find holiday joy.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Emotions

1. Have modest expectations. Don’t worry about  what the holidays are supposed to be like and how you’re supposed to feel.  Don’t worry about holiday spirit and take the holidays as they come.

2. Do something different. If the  prospect of the usual routine fills you with dread rather than  joy try not to  surrender to it. Try something different to get into the spirit.

3. Lean on your support system. During the holidays, take time to get together with your support team regularly or at least keep in touch by phone to keep yourself centered.

 

4. Don’t assume the worst.  Don’t start the holiday season anticipating disaster. If you try to take the holidays as they come and limit your expectations you may enjoy them more.5. Forget the unimportant stuff. Don’t run yourself ragged just to live up to holiday tradition. Give yourself a break.

6. Volunteer.  Consider taking time to help people who have less than you. Try volunteering at a soup kitchen or working for a toy drive.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Family

7. Head off problems. Think about what people or situations trigger your holiday stress and figure out ways to avoid them.

8. Ask for help .  People may be more willing to help out than you expect; they just need some guidance from you on what to do.

9. Don’t worry about things beyond your control. You can’t control others but  you can control your own reaction to the situation.

 

10. Make new family traditions.  While it’s nice to keep old traditions, you can also add new traditions for the holidays.11. Find positive ways to remember loved ones. Holidays will remind you of the loved ones who aren’t around anymore, try to do something to celebrate their memory.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Parties

12. Don’t overbook.   Don’t say yes to every invitation.  Think about which parties you really want to attend.

13. Don’t stay longer than you want. Going to a party doesn’t obligate you to stay until the end.  Stay as long as you can and leave when you are ready.

14. Have a partner for the party. If the prospect of an office party is stressful, talk to a friend and arrange to arrive  and leave together.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Shopping

15. Forget about the perfect gift. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed,  don’t worry about finding the absolute best gift.   Remember: everybody likes a gift card.

16. Shop online. Save yourself the inconvenience, the crowds by doing most of your shopping online.

17. Stick to a budget. The cost of holiday shopping can grow very quickly,   try to stick to a budget.

Finding the Holiday Spirit: Self-Care

18. Stay on schedule. As much as you possibly can, try to stick with your normal routine during the holidays.  Disrupting your schedule  can make your mood deteriorate.

19. Exercise. While you may not feel like you have the time to exercise during the holidays, the benefits are worth it.

20. Eat sensibly. When you’re facing a dozen holiday parties and family gatherings between now and New Year’s, it’s hard to stay committed to a sensible diet. But try. . On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up if you go overboard some days.   It’s not a big deal. Just get back on track the next day.

21. Try a sun lamp. As the daylight grows shorter, lots of people feel more depressed and sad.  A sun lamp may help to improve your mood.

22. Give yourself a break. “The holidays can make some people dwell on their imperfections, their mistakes, the things they’re not proud of,be  gentle with yourself. Remember it  is the season of kindness and forgiveness, so  save some of it for yourself.

When You Feel Sad After Having Your Baby

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The birth of a baby  can trigger many  emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety and sometimes  depression.

Many new moms experience the “postpartum baby blues” after childbirth, which  includes mood swings, crying, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.   Baby blues usually begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and will usually  last for up to two weeks.  However  some new moms experience a  long-lasting form of depression called postpartum depression.  If you experience postpartum depression,  treatment can help you manage your symptoms and enjoy your baby.

Symptoms

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, Postpartum depression symptoms may include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

If not  treated, postpartum depression may last for many months or sometimes over a year.   Many new mothers  feel reluctant or embarrassed to admit to feeling depressed after the birth of their baby.  Society tells us that we are only supposed to feel joyful and not sad after giving birth.     However if you experience any symptoms of postpartum postpartum depression, it is important to reach out for help and support from your doctor or therapist.

If you have suicidal thoughts

If at any time  you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, immediately seek help from your partner or loved ones in taking care of your baby and call 911 or your local emergency assistance number to get help.

Also consider these options if you’re having suicidal thoughts:

  • Call your mental health specialist.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.

In my psychotherapy practice, I work with many women who are experiencing post partum depression.  In addition to individual therapy I also have a group for new mothers to meet and discuss what they’re experiencing after the birth of their baby.  Remember if you’re experiencing the baby blues or postpartum depression, you’re not alone and there is help available.

 

Dating and Depression

People suffer from depression for many  reasons. From a horrible break up to hitting a rough patch in life, depression can hit at any time, and for many people it’s a condition they have to cope with every day and often need medication and /or therapy to help them.   If you are dealing with depression, you may feel you don’t want to date and feel that no one wants to date you however if you want to date, there is no reason you can’t even with depression.

When it comes to depression and dating, the most important person is you. You need to remember to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally before you start dating.   Try to  keep in touch with friends who are going through the dating scene with you. Having a support system during dating is very important.   Being around others who are going through similar experiences is often very helpful as you navigate the dating world.  Depression and the challenges that it brings can often be  random, one day you might feel great and the next day you might feel sad.  It’s ok to cancel your plans if you don’t feel up to going out on a date.

When you decide to be part of the dating world, it’s even more important that you’re able to accept your depression and take it for what it is. Just because you have a mental health issue doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to have fun and happiness.  Suffering from depression, as with any mental health issues, is a personal thing, there is no need to disclose this to your date when you first meet each other.  However, if you’ve been dating for awhile now and things are getting serious, you should tell your partner.  If the person chooses to break up with you because of your depression, they are not the person for you.     Once you’ve told your partner that you suffer from depression, they may have many questions.  You don’t have to answer every question, answer what you feel comfortable talking about with them.

Dating while having depression can be difficult but not impossible.  Also remember that if you choose to not date that’s ok too.