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?
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.