How to avoid holiday depression this year
Although holiday depression can happen during any year, it feels like it’s especially at the forefront of 2021. After two years of anxiety, fear and stress due to the coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense that many people may not be feeling the holiday spirit as much as in past years.
Still, some people may be more prone to holiday depression than others. This might include people grieving the loss of family or friends, those who are estranged from loved ones, or individuals struggling with other mental health issues.
Here’s what you should know about holiday depression and what you can do to try your best to avoid it, according to experts.
Prioritise to reduce stress
For many people, “the most wonderful time of the year” is actually really difficult. There’s just something about the holidays that seems to tap into all our inner woes and stresses, triggering holiday depression.
So what can you do to combat holiday depression and stress? Prioritise what’s important, and don’t tack on any additional tasks, suggests psychologist Margaret Wehrenberg, author of The 10 Best-Ever Depression Management Techniques. “Create a space and a plan for the important things, and then see what else may fit in around them,” she says. “Think ahead about what is always a waste of time in your life and then do not do those things. For example, if you always bake a lot but have most of the cookies and pastries left over, skip it this year.”
Let go of the picture-perfect holiday
Thanks to popular culture, we all have an idea of what the holidays are “supposed” to look like – sitting around a table with family and friends and unwrapping plentiful gifts before a big feast. Unfortunately, this happy picture doesn’t reflect many realities of the season, especially this year, and can lead to holiday depression.
“Unrealistic hopes that everything will be perfect, and that everyone needs to be happy leads to disappointment and frustration, and raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which will make you feel edgy and irritable,” says psychologist Deborah Serani, award-winning author of Living With Depression, and a professor at Adelphi University.
Instead, “focus on what’s ‘good enough,’ and make that your mantra. The more realistic you are about the true meaning of the holidays, which is about celebration and togetherness – not perfection – the more you’ll experience wellbeing.”