Your Depression Guide to Surviving the Holidays

John McManamy Health Guide
  • The good news: Hopefully, we all got through Thanksgiving in one piece. The bad news: It’s not over. The holiday season is only just getting going.


    For those of us contending with depression, the challenges can be enormous. For one, there is the prospect of finding ourselves alone. For another, there is the prospect of being around people. Both can be equally challenging.


    Let’s look at the loneliness issue first:


    Depression has a way of isolating us. We either find ourselves without friends or loved ones or lacking the incentive to be around them. Sometimes, it’s just plain bad luck. Our plans fall apart at the last minute, and there we are in an empty room.

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    Our brains, of course, will find a way of telling us that we are missing out on the party, not that any party would welcome us, anyway. For me, this is NOT the time to watch football or endless reruns of Law and Order. I would only be inviting depression in, otherwise.


    What I have to tell myself is: Whoopee, I have a free day. Time to myself. No stress. No demands. Time that belongs to me, not someone else.


    Now what to do with the time, that’s the catch. Seriously, this is YOUR time. It is a gift. A very precious one. Find something to do. I know, it’s a lot harder than it looks. But if you have a novel you’ve always wanted to write or an attic that needs cleaning, this is your chance to roll up your sleeves and get cracking.


    What you are likely to find is the activity shifts your mind into a pleasant low-grade meditative state. As you make progress in your efforts, your brain will reward you with a sense of accomplishment. How does it FEEL having accomplished something? Case closed.


    Personal note: I’m not just making this up. This is how I spent Thanksgiving yesterday.


    Okay, the people problem ...


    You may find yourself in a room filled with people whose sole purpose in life is to push your buttons. If you are a vegetarian, here you are with cannibals. If you eat meat, here you are with people who will lay a guilt trip on you. Even if you are around true loved ones, there’s always Jurassic Uncle Ed and mean Cousin Mavis.


    You may need to take stock. Can you truly handle the stress? If not, you may need to learn to say no. Staying home could very well be your best option.


    But if you must be around people, a few quick reminders:

    • Keep your expectations low. A holiday gathering is not the place for serious people-engagement. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and conflict.
    • You don’t have to impress anyone. This can seem like a cruel joke if you’re the underachiever in the family. Pay no attention to the button-pushers. Just breathe through your nose. You will thank yourself later. 
    • Build in your own chill breaks. Having to be on your game for hours on end is enormously demanding. It’s okay to excuse yourself and go for a walk or find an empty room.
    • Try to give people a reason they’re glad to see you. Walking in the door with a plate of brownies may do the trick, but don’t make a big deal of it. Do make a big deal of someone’s kids - it’s very hard to overdo it in this department. 

    Other than that ...


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    Who knows? You may actually enjoy yourself.     


Published On: November 30, 2013