Oct 062008
 
coping with depressed feelings at christmas

Getting too much sleep is a sign of depression at Christmastime (image by flickr Krystn Palmer Photographer)

Feeling depressed at Christmas isn’t unusual, even for people who aren’t normally depressed. These tips for coping with depression over the holiday season are from Dr Harold Levinson.

“Depressed people don’t always respond well to holidays and vacations where others appear happy and life seems beautiful,” says Dr Levinson. “This contrast often intensifies their own sense of inadequacy, jealousy of healthy others  – and thus may worsen their feelings of depression and even anger at their own inability to ‘snap out of it’ and enjoy life as they believe they should.”

If everyone seems to be happy except for you, you might find What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better helpful. It’s a practical, helpful book on increasing happiness and joy — whether it’s Christmas or not!

And, here are five natural ways to cope with depressed feelings at Christmas…

5 Ways to Cope With Depression at Christmas

If you struggle with depression, a loved one may tell you to “snap out of it.” Though he may mean well, it can contribute to your feelings of guilt and inadequacy.  Thus, a downward cycle may occur,  making Christmas even more depressing.

“At Christmas, we’re are expected to be happy, joyous and delighted to share gifts and appreciate all that life offers us,” says Dr Levinson. “Depressed people who cannot meet these expectations often feel worse.”

Take a second look at your prescription medications

“To make sure your prescription medications aren’t negatively interacting with holiday activities, follow my cardinal rule in treating all patients: if adverse health affects occur over the holiday season, blame the medication and/or doses first,” he says. “Lower the dose and determine if negative affects are lessened.  Indeed, increased doses may occasionally be needed – depending on the circumstances.  Also, alcohol, lack of sleep, etc., may negatively impact medication.  Keep these factors in mind – especially if your feelings of depression or anxiety intensifies at Christmas.  Anxiety may intensify depression, and vice versa.”

Be aware of the weather and the full moon

A natural way to cope with depression at Christmas is to pay attention to the weather.

“During the holidays or on a vacation, external variables may be crucial in affecting mood and anxiety, such as sun, cold, altitude, humidity, barometric pressures, and so on,” says Dr Levinson. “Indeed, a ‘lack of sun’ can intensify depressed feelings.  And even the full moon may play a role in some individuals.  By contrast, too much sun and heat may have adverse affects and thus physiologically intensify mood variability and even the responses to existing medications.  In some individuals, previously helpful medications may suddenly stop working or have negative affects.”

Be aware of how PMS affects your thoughts and emotions

Dr Levinson says, “It’s also important to note that endocronological changes (menstruation, ovulation, etc.) may affect mood and medication/dose responses.  People planning vacations over the holiday season should keep these factors in mind.”

A good way for women to cope with depression at Christmas is to remember that PMS can be an obstacle, especially if you’re sensitive to those monthly symptoms. Natural PMS treatments can help you feel better – but natural treatments can interfere with antidepressant medications, so make sure you talk to your doctor first.

Double-check your antidepressant medications

“Antidepressants can trigger or intensify depression and anti-anxiety medication can trigger anxiety,” says Dr Levinson. “Awareness of the above insights are crucial for people on antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications.  Insight will rapidly lead to self-correction or compensatory behavior.

Know your triggers

Dr Levinson encourages people (depressed or not) to remember that Christmas and the holiday season often expose individuals to transitions. You’re often leaving a known and comfortable environment to go to a new and uncertain one, and can be deal with social comparisons and disappointments, etc. Again, the more you’re aware of these factors, the more successful you’ll be in surviving Christmas depression. 

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Many people struggle with depression at Christmastime.

If you’re depressed because you lost someone you love, read How Do You Survive the Holidays After a Loved One Dies?

  4 Responses to “How to Cope With Depression at Christmas”

  1. Yes, Dawn, there is hope for you! I’ve got good news and bad news: the good news is that you CAN survive Christmas depression and make Christmas more meaningful for you. The bad news is that it takes effort and focus. That is, there are no magic pills or words that will suddenly make Christmas fun and happy for you.

    I encourage you to talk to another doctor, and perhaps talk to a counselor about the grief you feel over your family and friends’ deaths. Those are horrible things to be dealing with. It’s even more difficult to cope with things like that alone, so I encourage you to get professional, in-person support and advice. Call a distress line — there are several free support lines that offer good help.

    It may be wise to talk to the doctor about getting back on medication. Sometimes our biology and genetic makeup leads us to feeling depressed and sad — it’s a simple lack of the right endorphins and hormones! Finding the right meds and the right dosage takes time, but it’s worth it.

    Don’t give up — there is hope! Come back and let me know how you’re doing…

    Best wishes,
    Laurie

  2. I hate Christmas. My family is hundreds of miles away and they still make trouble. My parents never wanted me and I feel in the way more around the holidays. I only “Do Christmas” for our own children. My grandparents are all dead, my very best friend in the world died due to a drunk 4 years ago, she loved Christmas. My uncle was recently murdered and the law is overlooking what really happened to him, I’m very depressed and I’ve went off of my medicine because I feel it’s not strong enough for me and my doctor doesn’t listed. I feel complete sadness and loss during the holidays, I could sit the whole month through in a dark room and cry. Seems like every year gets worse for me. I wish I could enjoy it for my kids but I just cannot do it, feel like a failure because I cannot make it a happier time for my kids. I feel guilty over this…is there any hope for me?

  3. Dear Jessi,

    I’m sorry to hear how hard Christmas is for you.

    Here’s an article I wrote with you in mind…I hope it helps…

    How to Make Christmas Meaningful – 6 Christmas Tips

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  4. I hate Christmas. Too commercialized, Too expensive, not celebrated for what it is really about. My family is always at war with each other and are always hiprocrits (sp)at holidays. I say “if you cannot be nice to someone year round then don’t bother being nice just one day of the year”. I would rather be alone or sleep through this season. Have not found anything yet that will get me out of this slump so I just roll with it and play CD’s so I don’t have to listen to X-Mas music. I only grocery shop in the very early AM, then stay away from stores. If anyone has any idea on how to get out of this – please let me know

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