Depression and the Holidays

It’s that time of year again, and the holidays are around the corner.  Over the last week, I watched people start decorating their homes for the season.  The lights and the decorations are beautiful, and make me smile more than presents at this time of year.  There are shoppers already in the malls, getting presents and spending time with friends.  This is such a festive time of year, but it’s also the time of year that causes a great deal of stress, and depression.  I talk about this often with my patients, but for whatever reason, depression and the holidays go together.  There are ways to get through the holidays, and manage depression as well.  

I have talked about things to do around the holidays already, so we won’t talk about volunteering again, but I do want to talk about other options.  For some of my patients, the best option for them is to keep doing what they are doing.  As much as I like decoration, for some, decorations make people feel worse.  This was one of the hardest things to understand for me, when I start working with people around getting through the holidays.  For some, the decorations and frantic preparations make people feel more lonely, and that’s not the point of getting through the holidays.  Remember that keeping your regular routine is okay, if that is what you need to do to get through the holidays.

Some people travel for the holidays.  I have had people who leave their area for the holiday, to get away from memories.  They choose to make new memories to focus on, instead of dwelling in the past.  I had one patient in the past that went on a cruise every year, alone, to be alone.  It’s sounded so sad to me, but it worked for the patient.    That person did what had to be done to survive a very tough time of year, and I had to respect that.  Part of being a therapist is helping people figure out what they need to do for themselves, not impose my own ideas on them.  What makes me happy doesn’t make other’s happy.

One thing I do offer during the holidays is extra support.  For patients who have harder times around the holidays, I will see them more frequently, either weekly or every other week.  For many patients, thoughts about suicide increase around the holidays due to the pressure to attend gatherings.  For many, that pressure is overwhelming, so we work on how to say no, as well as boundaries.  I think people generally mean well, but when they pressure someone to participate in parties and gatherings, they end up being part of the problem, not the solution.

I know that people mean well, when they try to encourage others to be a part of the festivities they could be making things worse.  Don’t be afraid to make an offer, but don’t be offended if people don’t follow through on your invitation.  Everyone manages depression differently, but especially at this time of year, we have to be mindful that people have to keep the holiday in a way that works for them.  People need to do what they need to do to be happy.  And surviving the holidays is part of being happy, for life.