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Holiday Season Depression: A Guide For Getting Through

by Jan 4, 2024

It’s no secret that the holidays can be rough for a lot of people.

The holiday season comes with a set of expectations, and it can create as many feelings of lack as it does cheer.

Here’s how you can make the most of this upcoming holiday season, even if the holidays tend to bring you down.

All The Ways the Holiday Season Can Cause Depression

Bright lights, smiling faces, reckless spending, family, loved ones, and memories: These are the expectations of the holidays.

Consumerism aside, the holidays were intended to be about acknowledging and celebrating what’s meaningful to us. When the cultural focus is on connection, celebration, faith, and spending, then it’s obvious how the holidays can impact the most tender parts of ourselves. 

Here are a few other ways the holidays can be tough. They…

  • Can force us to see family members or people from our past that we would rather avoid.
  • Can create stressful travel conditions.
  • Can strain us financially, or make us feel inadequate for what we are not able to afford.
  • Can create stress around having to be social and interact with people you don’t know.
  • Can encourage bad habits (drinking, excessive eating).
  • Can remind us of the people in our lives who are no longer with us.
  • Can put pressure on those who are expected to host and organize holiday events.
  • Can create intense loneliness if we cannot be with certain people, or if our social lives are limited.

Most notably, there’s a pressure in the air around the holidays to be happy, and for those having a hard time, this pressure affects them greatly.

Everyone should have something to celebrate at the end of the year, even if they celebrate in an unconventional way. Let’s look at how you can own the upcoming holiday season before holiday depression can get the best of you.

Taking Control of Your Holiday Season

You can curb holiday season depression by being proactive about problems you might encounter.

Not all of these suggestions will match your circumstances, but they are all based on the biggest hurdles a person might face during the holidays.

1. Only Choose the Good People

Maybe no one has told you this in a while, but you have every right to decide who you spend your time with. Obligations are just that, obligations.

It is not required by law that you force yourself to see people you cannot stand, or worse, people you share painful memories with. You don’t have to subject yourself to this.

Even if it causes some friction, try to define your holiday this year. Only spend time around people you share deep connections with; the ones you actually want to see and laugh and make memories with.

If you have no choice but to be around bad people this year, then avoid them. Say your hellos and leave it at that. If problems start happening, then say you have to go. If you’re an adult, you have every right to do so.

2. Skip It and Do Something Better

Just because everyone else is celebrating, doesn’t mean you have to. You’ve got lofty goals, so why not put in work during the holidays while everyone else is having too much fun?

Take a project, a skill, or a goal you have, and use the holidays to work on it. Shut out all the lights and cheer and put everything you have into things that matter to you.

You can…

  • Hit the gym heavily.
  • Look for new jobs.
  • Read great books.
  • Dive into your passions and improve your skills.

When the holidays are over, you’ll have a list of things you’ve done to show for it. You’ll avoid all the temptations to break your diet and forget your problems. 

Instead, you can face them head-on and be miles ahead of the New Year’s Resolutioners who don’t commit to making positive changes until January 1st.

3. If Loneliness Is the Problem, Do This…

If your holidays are usually spent around people you don’t care for, or not many people at all, you can use the upcoming weeks to address that.

What’s preventing you from being more social? What fears are holding you back? Did you lose contact with old friends? Could you use the holidays to reconnect with them?

If you’re deeply introverted, try to think of ways that you can leverage your introversion and find the social equivalent of your interests. 

Here are some examples:

  • If you’re into gaming, look into conventions and meetups.
  • If you’re into tabletop games or cards, start attending events at local card shops or game stores.
  • If you’re into writing (or any art form), look for creative writing groups in your city or on campus.

If you seriously struggle with social anxiety, you can practice being social in your daily life, even if it takes small steps and rejections along the way:

  • Practice making mall talk with a cashier if you’re buying gifts.
  • Practice saying happy holidays to people.
  • Participate in whatever faith you practice. Attend services and volunteer if you can.

Whatever you decide to do, you can use the holidays to be proactive about becoming more social, creating more connections, and reflecting on what’s really holding you back.

4. Addressing the Practical Issues

  • The holidays can strain us financially, or make us feel inadequate for what we are not able to afford for our families.”

Remember that the thoughtfulness of a gift does count more than anything, and a meaningful gift does not have to cost much. And instead of feeling inadequate, you can do what the holidays were intended for and count the blessings you do have instead.

  • Can create stressful travel conditions.”

Try to make it as easy on yourself as you can. Prioritize things around the people who have the hardest time getting around.

  • Can remind us of the people in our lives that are no longer with us.”

The people who love you who are no longer with you would not want you to spend the holidays mourning them in sadness. They would want you to appreciate the life you have. Take the time to remember, create rituals to honor their memory, but remember how they would want you to feel.

  • Can put pressure on those who are expected to host and organize holiday events.”

Your family knows you are doing the best you can, and if they really care about you, they will accept some hiccups here and there. Remember all the times you’ve hosted great holidays in the past, and know you’re going to do fine.

The Real Mindset for Beating Holiday Season Depression

Just be conscious of it.

Know that you might feel that way at some point this holiday. But this does not mean you can’t make it your own. 

Addressing holiday depression is a prompt for addressing any issue you might be experiencing mentally. You can let this holiday season be a catalyst for massive personal change.

Be grateful that you’ve survived until this point. If nothing else, this holiday you can celebrate just being alive.