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‘Tis the season to be jolly, right? Except sometimes it isn’t. 

Honestly, this year is a little tough for me. My father passed away in June, and he absolutely loved Christmas and shopping for his grandkids. In fact, more often than not, he drove me slightly crazy with his over-the-top gifts that set pretty high standards for everyone else…ha. 

This year just isn’t the same without his mischievous presence. 

Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Maybe money is tight this year, and there is so much pressure to meet the expectations of your children, family, etc. Maybe seasonal affective disorder has you feeling down as the days grow shorter and shorter. Maybe you are in a location where you are unable to spend the holidays with family this year, and you are feeling incredibly lonely. 

Perhaps you are already struggling with your mental health, and you are finding added pressures of the holiday period to be just too much. 

Licensed marriage and family therapist, Nicole Arzt, recently shed some light on this exact topic in her article Holiday Depression: Signs, Causes, & Ways to Cope. She writes, “The holiday season can be challenging for anyone. But people with preexisting conditions of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and personality disorders may find this time of year especially stressful.”

She goes on to explain, “Similarly, those with histories of eating disorders or substance use disorders may find it challenging to keep their recoveries on track during the holidays”.

So, if you or a loved one is experiencing holiday depression, what can you do to cope and maybe even find a bit of joy this holiday season?

Coping With Holiday Depression: 5 Practical Tips

1. Stick to your routine as much as possible

When it comes to our children, we are so mindful of our routines. We try to adhere to bedtimes, meal times, breaks for rest, etc. Yet, as adults, we do not always consider our need for structure. While I am always sad to see the weekend go, there is beauty in our normal weekday routine as well. 

During the holidays, our routine can be disrupted by holiday gatherings, a plethora of foods that we may not normally partake in, and late nights watching movies or wrapping presents. While you don’t have to stick to your exact ‘normal’ routine through the holidays, try to aim to keep a few non-negotiable things the same for each day – such as your morning walk or your bedtime rituals. Your mind and body will thank you.

2. Just say no

You’d be surprised at how much mental freedom and relief you can find in allowing yourself to just say no to certain events and responsibilities during the holidays. For example, my family has an elf on the shelf. But, I’d be lying if I said I remember to move that silly elf every day. I’ve relieved myself of that burden. If it doesn’t bring you joy or peace, let it go.

3. Lower your expectations

If I am losing my temper and yelling at my kids while I try to create the “perfect” holiday, I have lost the meaning of the holiday. I do not love wrapping gifts. I am not one of those people who can perfectly wrap a gift and place the pretty bow on top in under two minutes. Mine looks like a toddler tried to wrap it every time. Again, I decided to pull an Elsa and let it go. We use gift sacks, or sometimes, we just arrange each child’s gifts in separate stacks under the tree. Their joy on Christmas morning remains unchanged regardless of which method we choose each year – but my sanity is intact.

4. Make your own traditions

This is along the same lines of “if it doesn’t bring you peace, let it go.” 

For my family, the holidays are much different for us this year. I’m soothing my broken heart by taking in the holiday concerts and dance recitals and reflecting on how much my children grew over the past 12 months. This is so much more meaningful to me than following some prescribed routine like putting the tree up on a certain day or forcing the kids to do a gingerbread village that the cats usually end up destroying. 

The traditions that we do partake in are intentional – and we don’t have to worry about trying to hit a magical number of activities to make sure everyone has a good holiday experience. 

5. Talk to someone – a therapist, a friend, a loved one, etc

Sometimes just talking to a trusted individual can be a massive help in getting some heavy thoughts and feelings off of your chest. Even a simple conversation over coffee can make a huge difference – but you have to reach out. 

If you need further support with your mental health, we welcome you to check out our self-help resource at www.thelilyjoproject.com/#help

We also offer a public community on Facebook that provides a forum to seek support with the day-to-day questions and concerns that go with raising a family and mental health issues in general. I moderate the group, and we would love to have you. You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!

Further Resources on Holiday Depression

If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources on preventing burnout. 

About the Author: Brandy Browne

Brandy Browne is the shelter manager for a family crisis center in the United States, as well as a counseling student and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her area of passion is helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.

Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is currently in the process of obtaining her counseling license as a marriage and family therapist. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of seventeen years, and together they share three children, aged twelve, nine, and seven. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, walking, and biking.

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