It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? The holiday season doesn’t feel wonderful for everyone. Some people deal with grief every time the holidays roll around. Others have new changes to navigate and may feel overwhelmed instead of joyful. If you are feeling depressed during the holidays, here are practical steps you can take for dealing with depression and to get the help you need.
Are You Depressed?
If you have felt overwhelmed by feelings of isolation, sadness, or hopelessness for two weeks or more, you may be suffering from depression. Depression tends to worsen over time, leading you toward potentially dangerous situations. These symptoms indicate that you need to get help for depression as soon as possible.
- Bouts of crying
- Irritation or uncharacteristically short temper
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of energy in normal daily activities
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Memory problems
- Negative impact on work
- No longer attending normal social engagements
- Significant decrease or increase in appetite
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Slow movements or slowed, quiet speech
- Feelings of inappropriate or excessive guilt
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Recurring thoughts about death, dying, and suicide
If you have at least three of these symptoms for more than two weeks in a row, you may have clinical depression, which needs professional care. Many people benefit simply from talk therapy when a counselor discusses problems with you and helps you arrive at healthy solutions.
Depression can be linked to grief from job loss, divorce, death, and other life changes. It can progress quickly, so it’s important to deal with depression as soon as possible. Though the holidays are a busy time for most of us, it’s essential to intentionally deal with your depression during the holidays.
Dealing with Depression During the Holidays
Since many people feel depressed during the holiday season, we want to offer you ways you can fight back against depression. Use these tips for dealing with depression and to become more emotionally healthy during the holidays.
Don’t just “suck it up.”
With other people around you acting joyful and happy, you may feel guilty about your depression. You may even stuff your feelings and paste on a smile. This denial of your feelings can hurt you in the long run. You need a safe place to express the real you. Journaling and counseling sessions are good ways to offload your sad feelings.
Cry out to God.
God wants all of you, even the sad parts. He wants you to cry out to him for help, healing, and hope. The book of Psalms can serve as your prayer guide during this season. As you read through the Psalms, cry out to God with your hurts and frustrations. He will heal your wounds and give you comfort and encouragement.
Work against isolation.
One of the hallmarks of depression is a desire to isolate. But this is one of the worst things you can do, as it will only deepen your depression. Put connection times on your daily schedule. Reach out to those who lift you up via regular Zoom calls, Facetime, or old-fashioned phone calls. These points of connection with others will lift your spirits and give you something good to anticipate.
Lean into grief.
Many depressed people resist their grief, worried that it will overtake them or spoil holiday celebrations for others. But it’s much healthier to lean into your grief so you can get past it. You can set appointments for grieving, just as you set appointments for connection.
Grieve before God, letting the tears flow in front of him. Then go about the rest of your day, reminding yourself that you’ll have time to grieve again. By reserving time for grief, you’ll improve your mental and emotional well-being.
Watch your self-talk.
Negative thoughts are frequent visitors in the minds of depression sufferers. You probably talk to yourself much more harshly than anyone else does. Get in the habit of writing down your self-critical thoughts and comparing them with the truth of God’s Word. If they don’t match up, declare God’s truth over yourself. With practice, you can start replacing negative thoughts with the affirmations God has for you.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Another way to combat negative thoughts is to keep a gratitude journal. By writing out three things every day for which you are thankful, you can fight back against the temptation to see everything under a dark shadow. God wants us to rejoice in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), and your spirits will lift when you intentionally thank him for small things every day during the holiday season.
Cultivate healthy habits.
Depressed people often slip into unhealthy habits as coping mechanisms. Avoid overindulging in sugar, fried foods, alcohol, and sleep during the holiday season. Instead, eat a balanced diet of lean protein, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Also, keep a regular sleep schedule by establishing calm routines each evening. Exercise is important as well. Thirty minutes of daily exercise such as brisk walking, can increase your feel-good hormones and help you fight depression. All these habits combined can help your body fight depression from the inside out.
Avoid trigger moments.
Which holiday moments are most stressful for you? Which ones will trigger your grief? It’s important to plan around these moments so your depression doesn’t deepen. Are there activities you can bow out of this year because they are too painful? Make a list of which activities are most important to you and stick to it. There are no benefits to making yourself miserable in situations that can be avoided.
Take a friend along.
Speaking of trigger moments, maybe there are activities and celebrations you don’t want to completely forego. In the activities you choose to keep, take a trusted friend along. Another person’s presence during stressful moments can soothe you better than going alone. Plan ahead and think of someone now who will be a good companion for you.
Give yourself the gift of counseling.
The best Christmas gift you can give yourself this year is a block of counseling sessions. There is no shame in reaching out for help. It’s one of the best ways you can care for yourself. If you are new to counseling, you’ll find that a caring, objective perspective from a Christian counselor may be the most helpful step you take in overcoming depression.
More Help for Dealing with Depression
Depression is caused by a complex set of factors, including genetics and personality traits. Certain forms of depression are more common during the winter months. A compassionate counselor can give you a full diagnosis for your depression and offer specific ways to handle it.
Most depression patients benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Your counselor will talk with you about your feelings, experiences, and thoughts and help you sort out your problems. Some patients need talk therapy plus anti-depressant medications to correct brain chemistry. These drugs often take several weeks to reach their full effect, so it’s wise to seek help for holiday depression as soon as possible.
At Seattle Christian Counseling, we will tailor our counseling efforts to help you as you’re dealing with depression during the holiday season. Talk therapy can help you sort out negative thoughts. Interpersonal therapy is recommended for increasing relationship skills. To change your behaviors and improve your mood, we may use behavioral activation therapy.
When you meet with us, we’ll look at the best therapy strategies for you. Different strategies will help you address toxic thinking patterns, develop skills for problem-solving, and help you take one day at a time. A qualified counselor can help you fully overcome depression.
The holidays can be difficult, but you don’t have to stay stuck in depressed feelings. We can help you find the best counseling solution for your unique needs. Give us a call today to learn which type of therapy will help you most in the holiday season.
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