How to survive the holidays with depression

Let’s be honest – even if you’re not
suffering from depression, the holidays can be stressful and often disappointing. We run ourselves ragged buying gifts, cooking,
decorating and entertaining. Tempers can flare as we’re thrown together
with relatives whom we see infrequently, and don’t necessarily enjoy spending time with. Our expectations can be high that this season
will be magical and perfect as we try to recapture the anticipation we felt as children waiting
for Santa, or wait for a rush of emotion as we ponder the religious significance of Christmas
and Chanukah. When those feelings don’t come, we’re
disappointed. And, of course, we’re ready to take the
nearest heavy object to the tv or computer when we see the same holiday commercial for
the 487th time. I broke down in tears twice while trying to
juggle visits to my ex-husband’s family and my own (parents and two sets of grandparents
on his side, an hour and a half away from my parents and siblings). I wasn’t even depressed – both those times
I was on antidepressants and doing great. The sheer stress of the holidays was just
too much for me. So that’s my view of how the holidays can
be when you’re not depressed. When you are depressed, it’s like Dante
created your own private circle of hell. The idea of doing all this holiday stuff while
you’re depressed is beyond overwhelming. Shop for Christmas or Chanukah presents? You’re having trouble getting out to shop
for food! Decorate the house? You don’t even know if you’ll get laundry
done so you’ll have clean underwear tomorrow. Send out Christmas cards to 50 of your closest
relatives and friends? What would you say in them – “Doing awful. My new pastime is staring at the ceiling. I hate myself. My clothes are falling off me because I don’t
eat anymore. I can’t wait till the holidays are over. Don’t bother to call. By the way, Happy Holidays!”. It’s miserable to be depressed during the
holidays. One reason is that you know that you really
should be enjoying all the wonderful things that come along with them. As down as I sound on the season, I really
do enjoy a lot of Christmas-sy things – decorating the tree and the house, giving and receiving
presents, watching Rudolph and the Grinch and even sending out Christmas cards. But when I’m depressed, the fact that I
can’t enjoy these things makes me twice as miserable, and I berate myself for not
partaking fully in the joys of the season. The second thing that makes it so hard to
be depressed during the holidays is that doing the holidays right requires planning and organization. If you’re depressed, you’re so far from
having those capabilities that it’s pathetic. You can’t even plan past the next five minutes,
let alone a whole holiday season. And organization? Please! You probably are about to have your electricity
cut off because you haven’t been able to get organized enough to pay your bills. Another horrendous aspect of being depressed
during the holidays, potentially, is spending time with people. Parties, dinners, get-togethers, etc. You’re having so much trouble smiling that
you’re sure you have an absolutely ghastly expression pinned to your face. You feel like bursting into tears when someone
asks you to join in singing a Christmas carol. Worst of all, you’re overly sensitive in
general – to noise, to anything sad, like the other reindeer teasing Rudolph, to really
garish decorations that make you really depressed for some unknown reason. So you have to try to act normal while all
this turmoil and pain is going on inside you, instead of being able to cry and scream or
stare at the ceiling like you can do when you’re alone. And, in my opinion, probably the worst part
of being depressed at the holidays? It’s that everyone you know (and even strangers
and TV commercials) is telling you how much you should be enjoying this time of year. Even if they’re at the end of their rope
trying to get everything done, they will be telling you what a downer you’re being. You know you should be happy and having fun. No one has to tell you that. But they do anyway, and you just want to slug
them and burst out crying at the same time. Yes, they “mean well.” But they’re not making things any easier
for you. I have some suggestions for surviving the
holidays if you’re depressed, based on my experience and what I did wrong during my
miserable depressed holiday seasons. (By the way, these are also good for the non-clinically
depressed person who’s totally stressed out and at the end of his/her rope.) You have to be willing to throw away all the
“shoulds” that come with the holidays, though. The number one rule is: Give yourself permission. Permission to drastically cut back on holiday
preparations, permission to feel emotions other than unqualified joy and happiness and
permission to gently but firmly say “no” to family and friends. Remember that you are ill. Clinical depression is an illness that is
affecting your body, mind and personality. You are as fragile as anyone who is physically
an invalid, if not more so. Keep this rule in mind during the season,
and you should make it through okay. Remember – you are not a loser for scaling
back. Other people would probably love to do it
too, but there’s major peer pressure to “enjoy” holidays to their fullest. That’s the number one thing to keep in mind;
here are some suggestions: * In general, simplify the holidays. Elaborate preparations can wait for another
year when you’re in better shape. Also, there’s the argument that a simpler
holiday is more emotionally fulfilling. * Instead of making yourself go through the
ordeal of sending out paper Christmas cards, send electronic ones instead. Hallmark and have a good selection
of free holiday e-cards. * If you must send out paper cards, just sign
them instead of racking your brain trying to come up with something cheerful. * When it comes to giving gifts, think gift
certificates or gift cards. They’re the perfect present. Yes, everyone will know what you spent – who
cares? If you have the energy and the inclination,
do an extra-special job of wrapping. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. Also, consider shopping online, which also
keeps you out of the mall. Maybe I’m the only one, but malls at Christmas
freak me out when I’m depressed, and I’m ultra-sensitive to the noise and crowds. * Another option is to gift an experience. One Christmas my sister gave us a cooking
lesson and meal at the chef’s table in a local restaurant. You could also gift a meal from a chef cooked
in the recipient’s home. * Do not, under any circumstances, host a
holiday gathering at your place. No way. If it’s your turn, switch with someone else
and tell them you’ll make it up to them. They’ll just have to understand. If you’re going to someone else’s place
and you’re expected to bring food, buy it, don’t make it. If they want home-made, too bad. Let them make it, then. Just say, “I’m sorry – I’m just not
up to it.” End of story. * You’ll need excuses. To people who know you’re suffering from
depression, tell them that you’re just not up to doing all the holiday stuff, or going
to all the holiday events, or expressing all the Christmas cheer. To people who don’t know what you’re going
through, perhaps co-workers, tell them, “I’m just so busy, I can’t fit it in.” Or, “It’s just so hard to get into the
holiday spirit sometimes, what with all the work that comes with it.” If you’re okay with lying, tell them that
you have something undetectable like a serious sinus infection that’s not responding to
antibiotics. * If the usual Christmas music is really grating
on your nerves, try different music, like classical or choral renditions of carols. You can stream a yule log with Christmas music,
which is relaxing and low-key. I’ll put the link below in the show notes. * Scale back on your decorating. Don’t wrap the house and bushes in lights. Put the wreath on the door, and you’ve taken
care of the decorating for the outside of the house. Decorating a Christmas tree is a monumental
task, especially if you get a live tree. Consider scrapping it for this year, or just
having a mini tree. Or use evergreen boughs to decorate a room,
maybe with some lights or ornaments woven in. Simple can be beautiful. * Don’t beat yourself up over feeling empty
instead of full of the joy of the season. You’re feeling empty because that’s a
part of the illness. It’s not your fault, and you’re not a
bad person or a loser because of it. Even people who are not depressed are often
having trouble getting in touch with the “real meaning of the season.” * Try to stay away from the alcohol that’s
flowing freely this time of year. Very simply, alcohol is a depressant. It’s the last thing you need. It may relieve the pain for a little while,
but you’ll probably end up feeling sad and maudlin. * If you can afford to, arrange to take a
vacation during Christmas. Go somewhere tropical or where Christmas isn’t
celebrated, and just avoid the whole thing. You can use the excuse of getting ready for
your vacation as a way to avoid social commitments. And also follow my usual suggestions: get
enough sleep (if you can), stick to a well-balanced diet, and get rid of stress by exercise and
meditation. I hope this video has been helpful. I put some links below that you might want
to check out. Be sure to leave a comment below about how
you deal with the holidays when you’re depressed, and consider subscribing to our channel. See you next time.

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