Christmas can be an incredibly stressful time of the year for many of us. We’re surrounded by imagery and messaging selling unrealistic levels of holiday cheer and happiness. It’s a time when the pressure is on at work, when the shops are at their craziest and when we feel most compelled to be the perfect family.
And for those of us who suffer from depression, it’s often when we feel at our lowest and most fragile.
5 Reasons why the holidays get us down – And what to do about it
The festive season is a known culprit in the rise of depression, and sadly, and increase in suicides. Understanding why the festive can affect our moods and cause depression can help us to take the steps needed to either help ourselves or loved ones who struggle during this period.
That said, the holidays are fraught with the following factors that play a role in causing depression:
1. An increase in unrealistic expectations
When faced with a constant flood of media messaging highlighting how everyone is simply brimming with happiness and Christmas joy, with (seemingly) perfect significant others, families and lifestyles, it’s not difficult to become blinded to the complete lack of realism in the messaging, and fall prey to the mistaken assumption that these represent real life.
What you can do: Manage expectations and practice mindfulness
Practising mindfulness and managing your expectations are important in moving past unrealistic ideas and finding peace in your current situation. This means letting go of the pressure to be perfect or meet those unrealistic ideals, as this often causes a rise in anxiety and stress, which is linked to depression.
Instead, try to be mindful of the things you are thankful for – whether it’s the opportunity to start afresh in the new year or the chance to take a break from work. Remember that the holidays do end, that those picture-perfect holiday moments highlighted in the media are unrealistic, and that the feelings of deficiency and lack often exacerbated by the season will also pass.
2. A heightened tendency to fall into the comparison trap
In conjunction with the above, it’s incredibly easy to compare your life with either the false seasonal messaging, or with the lives of people around you (or on social media), and to become disheartened and depressed.
What You Can Do: Remember your comparisons are inaccurate
The temptation to compare yourself to others over the festive season can be overwhelming, and the results of these comparisons often push us further down the spiral of depression and despair.
The key here is to remember that the basis we use for comparison is often heavily skewed in favour of making us look and feel bad. We often use limited, biased information to form comparisons that just don’t reflect reality.
Consider how often you’ve seen people on Facebook portraying their lives and relationships as one way, when you know that the truth behind those posts and pictures is completely different. Nobody’s life is perfect, and if you scratch below the surface of most lives, you’ll find issues and problems you never expected.
3. Greater pressure with less time to rest
With rising pressures at work, and feeling the pinch to “do it all” over the holidays, many of us feel our energy levels flagging as we struggle to find time to take care of ourselves and rest adequately.
What you can do: Let go of the need to please
While there are legitimate demands on your time during the festive season, it’s valuable to separate them from other needs that are not as important. For example, while you might need to meet deadlines for work, you don’t need to agree to attend every Christmas function or to have the entire family around for the festivities. As difficult as it can be to say no, it’s important to set boundaries and to take the time you need to keep yourself recharged and feeling balanced.
4. Changing seasons and weather patterns
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depressive mood disorder that strikes when the seasons change. It’s often characterised by an onset of depression that coincides with changing seasons. Sufferers often experience these symptoms at the same time each year, and often during the colder months.
What you can do: Don’t be afraid to ask for help
SAD is a real condition that affects many people. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for help – there are treatment options like light therapy, medication and cognitive behavioural therapy that can all work towards helping you through the depressive moods defining SAD.
5. Acute awareness of negative emotions
Loneliness and depression are magnified during the festive season. You might be alone for the holidays, or facing a situation that seems too hard to bear. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, a personal setback or an unfavourable medical diagnosis. Perhaps you’ve been struggling with mental illness, and feel like you’re losing the battle. Maybe the future seems too difficult to face, and being surrounded by hordes of seemingly happy people can make you think life is unbearable.
What you can do: Remember you’re not alone
If you or a loved one is facing depression this festive season, remember you are not alone. There are many treatment avenues available to help you cope, and people standing by to help you get through what you are facing.
If you’re struggling with depression, or feeling like you can’t go on, please reach out to someone. Bridge offers comprehensive facilities and long-term treatment plans to help you get back on your feet and enjoy life again. You can contact us by calling 020 8298 9677, or by submitting your details on our website.
We’re here to help you and your loved ones find relief from the strain of mental illness and depression, so please don’t hesitate to contact us. And remember there is always hope, and a way forward!