The holiday season can be a fun and exciting time of the year with festivities and great food. For many people, however, the holiday season causes increased stress. Missed loved ones, re-emerging family problems and the pressure to purchase the perfect gift make the holidays a difficult time for many. Additionally, social media only magnifies the stress with constant reminders of your friends and loved ones having the time of their lives while you’re at home bored and lonely.
Fighting the holiday blues can be especially difficult when you quietly suffer with depression. Depression is a taboo subject that isn’t discussed in many homes because some communities don’t believe in “airing your dirty laundry.” Part of being “Blessed and highly favored,” we believe, is accepting our misfortunes quietly. Unfortunately, this causes us to typically sweep conversations surrounding depression under the rug. Doing so, we make those family members who struggle with depression feel guilty for not being happy and joyful during the holiday season.
Recently, Titi Cree Branch, cofounder of Miss Jessie’s, a natural hair care line, died at the age of 45. It has been speculated that she died by suicide. Major depression can foster deep feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that linger to the point where an individual believes suicide is the way out of the constant anguish.
Those suffering from depression do not have to suffer through the holidays. There are several effective ways to manage stress, treat depression and enjoy the holiday season. Below are five tips to reduce holiday stress and enjoy the festivities. When we implement these tips, we are sure to reduce our stress levels and get the most enjoyment from our holiday season.
1. Enjoy the Moment
Avoid obsessing over getting the holiday décor just right, wearing the perfect outfit, having the best hair and preparing the best food. Spend time enjoying the company of family and friends and avoid worrying. Most people will focus on whether they had a good time and not if the dinner rolls were a little crisp.
2. Be Realistic in Your Expectations
Reduce expectations of how the “holidays are supposed to be” and that everyone will uphold family traditions and be on their best behavior. Try to accept everyone with all their flaws and remember to stay away from “hot button” topics as they typically incite agitation and irritability versus joyous fun.
3. Take a Time Out
The holidays are full of lights, people, music, and noise. This continuous stimulation can be overwhelming for many and lead to exhaustion. Take a break from the festivities and have quiet time with yourself. It’s OK to say “no.” Remember you don’t have to participate in every activity to have a great holiday season.
4. The Act of Giving is Most Important
With all of the holiday sales, many of us feel pressured to give the perfect gift to show our loved ones that we care. Enjoy the act of wrapping, decorating and actually giving the gift. Remember, most loved ones are happy to know they were thought of enough to receive a gift and are unlikely to ponder over whether you should’ve spent more or purchased something different.
5. Acknowledge the Loss of Your Loved Ones
If your loved ones have passed away, accept the feelings of sadness and grief. Spend time acknowledging your loved one by lighting a candle, planting a tree or donating something in their name. Then reach out to your friends or family members to share the holidays with them. No one should spend the holidays alone. Consider implementing the following steps to protect your health and wellbeing if your symptoms of holiday blues, depression and hopelessness persist:
- Seek out a psychologist or clinical therapist to arrange a talk therapy or counseling visit to address the pervasive thoughts you’re feeling.
- Know the overwhelming feelings of sadness do not last. Give yourself time to feel better.
- Build a strong support team, make changes to your lifestyle and habits, and see a psychiatrist to determine whether medication is an option for treatment.
- Consider alternative medication or natural herbs and supplements to help address your depression.
- If the thoughts continue escalate to suicidal ideation, seek immediate help from a health care provider or you may call 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255.
Let’s collectively lift the veil of depression by discussing its symptoms, different methods of treatment and providing support to our loved ones battling this illness. No additional lives need be lost to suicide. -Dr. Tiffany
As owner and consultant of boutique human resource firm, Diverse Business Solutions, business psychologist Dr. Tiffany D. Sanders, PhD specializes in executive business coaching, employee engagement and retention, talent management, and organizational and leadership training and development. She also owns Sanders & Associates, a clinical mental health practice providing quality mental health counseling and psychological evaluation services to children, adolescents, couples and families.