The holiday season can be filled with parties and celebrations. Everywhere we turn, we are inundated with messages that this is the season of joy. But for some people, it is a season filled with loneliness, anxiety and sadness. Holiday depression can occur because your expectations for the holiday season are unfulfilled. Instead of finding joy in being with relatives, you may find it stressful. Instead of spending peaceful times at home, you may be worried about finances, stressed over dealing with children and teens with ADHD and guilty over all those things you feel you didn’t accomplish over the past year.
Depression is a common co-existing condition in adults and children with ADHD. For those suffering with the daily struggles of depression, the holidays can make the feelings of hopelessness become more intense. Whether you struggle with depression on a daily basis or you feel it mostly around the holidays, there are some ways that you can help to make sure you control your feelings of depression, rather than letting them control you:
Review your expectations of the holiday season. Are your expectations realistic or are they based on a childish view that everyone is happy and everyone suddenly gets along with one another during the holidays? Television shows us story after story of people learning their lesson, forgiving one another and finding joy where there once was none. These shows can lead to feelings of depression and helplessness if your life doesn’t turn out exactly the way the shows continually end. We may feel as if there is something wrong with us if we can’t feel the hope and joy this season is supposed to bring. But the holidays don’t magically make everything all right. Our families may still fight with each other, our teenagers may still sulk and be unappreciative of all that we do for them, relatives and friends may still not like that gift we took hours to choose, our children may still misbehave and our finances might still be a mess. Look realistically at your situation and realign your expectations. Measure the success of your holiday season with your own situation, rather than by television standards. Take time to treasure what makes you happy and try to do something just for you. Avoid unpleasant get-togethers if they are going to make you feel worse. By reducing your expectations and basing them on your own reality, you can increase your sense of satisfaction.
Continue your current treatment plan. Even though it is tempting to skip doctor appointments during the rush of the holiday season, don’t. Skipping appointments or stopping medication can cause your depression to spiral.
Find ways to overcome loneliness. Today, families are much more mobile than in years past. Family can live thousands of miles away from each other. If you do not have family living near you, plan in advance for pangs of homesickness. Volunteer your time at a local shelter or distribute food packages to the needy. Find organizations planning holiday dinners and volunteer your assistance. This will allow you to feel as if you are giving to those less fortunate, provide you with an outlet to make new friends and alleviate some of the feelings of loneliness. Keep yourself busy by spending time with friends or check out your local paper for free holiday activities and concerts that you can attend. You can invite some other people you know are in similar situations to share holiday meals with you.
Take control of your finances. Create a spending plan and stick to it. Don’t worry that you are not able to afford to buy the finest gifts. If you need to cut spending, consider limiting your gifts to just children and let the adults in your life know that you have chosen to provide only for the younger ones this year. Talk to your family and friends about foregoing gift giving to pool your resources and donate to a family that may do without this year.
Choose the people you want to spend time with. If you have family or friends that are judgmental or you feel uncomfortable around, be selective in where you spend your time. Find people that are supportive of you and invite them to your home for a holiday party. Seek out those people that will make you feel good about yourself and try to incorporate them into your holiday plans. Avoid or limit the events where you must be around people that will bring you down.
Prioritize your tasks. Say no to those things that are not priorities and allow yourself time to complete the tasks that must be done. During the holiday season there are normally extra things such as shopping, entertaining, school events and parties. Understand that it does not reflect on who you are as a person if you are not able to do everything. List the items you really want to accomplish and work on completing those before you add more to your list.
Incorporate daily relaxing time. Holiday time tends to be hectic and the pace of life quickens. Take 15 minutes of each day to sit quietly and reflect on the good in your life or meditate. Taking just a few minutes each day will help renew your energy and will help you put your life into perspective. Knowing that you will have this time to yourself to relax and unwind may help you get through a hectic morning.
Limit or stay away from alcohol. Drinking alcohol can increase depression. Stay away from parties where you feel you may drink too much. If you must, limit the number of drinks you will have. Volunteer to be the designated driver to eliminate drinking altogether.
Accept that life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. Life has continuous bumps, and it is the way we handle those bumps that matters. We cannot eliminate problems from occurring, but we can understand our reaction to them and try to view them in a positive light. Accepting the unexpected, whether we made a mistake to cause it or it just happened is important.
Depression hurts the person that is depressed, but also impacts all of the people around them. Being proactive to help keep depression under control will improve your chances of having a peaceful holiday season and will help those around us to enjoy the season.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.