The holiday season is upon us, which can be the best of times and the worst of times.
It’s a time of the year, in fact, that can often be stressful and disappointing. For many, there can be feelings of sadness and depression, particularly for those who have lost loved ones.
While it’s a myth that suicide is more common around the holidays – statistics show that spring is actually the peak time – this can be a particularly difficult time for those prone to depression.
Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression.
Mental health professionals say that people who are lonely or have feelings of disconnectedness often avoid social interactions at this time of year. Unfortunately, this can make things worse. Many see other people spending time with friends and family and ask themselves, “Why can’t that be me?” or “Why is everyone else so much happier?”
Holidays can be difficult because they often bring back memories of friends and family members who are gone. In addition, the disappointment over not being able to enjoy the holidays may add to one’s depression.
Mental health experts encourage people to follow these practical tips:
- Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, work-related, religious or other social events that will offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others can be a good way to lift your spirits.
- Avoid conflict with family and friends. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Try to set aside any grievances.
- Stick to a budget. Don’t try to buy happiness by purchasing gifts you can’t afford.
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, visiting friends and other activities.
- Learn to say “no.” Saying “yes” when you should say “no” can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and family will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.
- Learn to grieve. If the holidays remind you of a loved one, it’s a good time to discuss your feelings or find help by joining a support group.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence will only add to your unhappiness. Make sure to eat properly, exercise, and get the proper amount of sleep.
- Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. This may include listening to soothing music, getting a massage, or reading a book.
Depression at this time of year, or any time for that matter, should not be ignored. If these feelings last, it’s time to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Here are some tips for helping an elderly person with depression.