The holidays can be a time of raucous joy, meeting up with old friends, recollecting fond childhood memories and getting awesome things you don't have to pay for. But it can also be a time when we feel a heavy burden of negative emotions that peak just when everyone expects us to be at our most, um, jolly. There are tons of causes: Guilt from not doing or spending enough, missing a loved one who's no longer in our life, being face-to-face with people who you feel you don't measure up to, or just a general sense of feeling overwhelmed can have us feeling down. Can you get it under control and make this season one you'll remember fondly? Definitely. Follow these tips to prep for the onslaught and you'll be on your way to truly happy holidays.
Don't Make It All About Your Inner Circle
There's a certain kind of pressure during the holidays to have a laser-like focus on other people. Schedule alone time for yourself and make sure you're focusing on you, too. The season of giving can also be perfect for giving yourself a break. A half-hour reading session, a hot bath, a game of chess with yourself, whatever it is, don't forget you deserve it! Oh, and turn off your phone during your chill out, you don't need it pinging with emails and VMs from Mom.
Donate Your Time
This didn't make the list just to promote the holiday spirit. It's actually a legit way to combat depression. Why? Because when you're depressed you're in a mental cycle, thinking only of you and your feelings. But when we get out there and do something nice for a stranger or someone less fortunate, we lift that veil of selfishness and actually feel better. So sign up for a soup kitchen or a clothing or gift drive. Do something charitable, your mood will be improved.
These days, underneath all of that holiday cheer, we're under a lot of pressure to deliver costly goods. There's the family members, the partner and then the coworkers who want you to throw in $20 for your boss' gift…it feels like it never ends. But it can end, with you. If your budget is tight, don't let anything or anyone talk you into spending more than you're able. Focus on meaningful gifts, not expensive ones. You'll be surprised how much they're appreciated.
Keep Your Expectations Moderate
We usually go into the holidays expecting them to be great (how could they not be with the new love in our life!) or dismal (same boring routine). When those expectations are proven or dashed, our attitudes crash, big time. Curb what you expect these holidays to be like. Pretend it's the first season you've had, nothing before to compare it to. And make the best of it. Create new traditions that allow you to feel as if this is new and exciting territory.
Ask for Help
Simply put, don't plan and take on the big Xmas day dinner by yourself. Don't take on buying all the gifts and letting your partner sign his or her name after they're wrapped. No one wants to be a dictator during a hectic time, but you don't have to be. That's what asking nicely is for. Put in a please, thank you and be specific about what needs to be done. Don't be afraid to delegate!
Stay in Control
Create an action plan. Whether it's a calendar or a to-do list, planning helps many of us feel a burden has been lifted. It gets rid of the concern we feel when there are so many variables. If the plan changes, fine. Cross it out and make a new one. No big deal. But keeping tabs on what to do next will help you feel like you've got a handle on the holidays.
Depression is not something to joke about. And if you've recently lost a loved one (whether that's a breakup or someone passing away), the holidays can be extremely tough. The first instinct is to burrow away until it's over. But that can only make it worse. Participating fully will help you feel better. And so will a grief support group. Bonus, they're less expensive than therapy.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is very real. People need sunlight and its vitamin D to maintain a positive mood. If you live in an area with a lot of cloud cover during winter months, consider buying a sunlight lamp. Reviewers on Amazon swear they work. And I can advocate for them personally, as well. Fresh air and getting outdoors is also good for your spirit, even if it's a cloudy day. So bundle up, take a walk around the block, you'll be surprised how energized you feel.
Think Before You Have Your Last Drink
Finally, a little reminder from seventh grade health class: alcohol is a depressant. After that buzz wears off, you'll likely feel worse than you did before you started drinking. So keep it light if your mood is fragile.