It always seems impossible until it is done. ~Nelson Mandela
For a lot of people, Christmas is their favorite time of the year. But it is important to recognize that not everyone feels this way. For some people, it can be a time of loneliness. For others, it can bring back painful memories.
Even though we may see the media portraying happy-go-lucky families, joyful gift sharing, and all around wonderful times had by all (I mean, it IS supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” right?), we know that’s not always the case.
Last year was the first year I experienced Christmas without an immediate family member. After my brother passed, holidays and birthdays didn’t seem the same anymore. There was this gnawing feeling that something was missing and I could feel the tension in the air as we tried our best to let the day go on with some semblance of normalcy.
So I know first hand what it can be like during the holidays when emotional triggers try to get the best of us.
But I’ve also learned a few things during the process and am happy to share with you things you can do to avoid Christmas depression triggers (or at least not let them overcome you as much; trust me, you’ll get stronger through time!).
How To Avoid Christmas Depression Triggers
The experience of negative emotions can take hold of your holidays if you’re feeling stressed (about the whole holiday experience overall), sad or depressed (about missing loved ones), or anxious (about meeting expectations of others and managing difficult relationships).
So the following 9 tips can help you find a little bit more joy within yourself and hopefully fewer negative emotional triggers this year.
- Cut back on commitments – You are only going to make life more difficult for yourself if you commit to numerous holiday gatherings when you really don’t want to go to them. If you don’t want to attend a gathering, that’s fine, sit it out. Remember, Christmas only last for 24 hours; it’s the social occasions that tend to drag out the holidays for longer, but you don’t need to attend these if you don’t want to – and DON’T feel guilty for not wanting to go to them. This is a form of self-care and I highly recommend skipping events and gatherings if you know they’re going to present issues.
- Don’t binge on alcohol or food – For a lot of people, overindulgence is a tradition at Christmas. However, if you binge on food and alcohol, you may find yourself in a guilt-ridden downward spiral afterward. Don’t use alcohol to deal with any depression you feel around this time of year as it can intensify your emotions, which will leave you feeling worse when it wears off. Here are some tips on eating healthily during the holiday season. One solution is to prepare meals in advance, as this will make you less likely to snack on things that aren’t good for you.
- Prioritize exercising – During the Christmas period, one activity that tends to get lost in the holiday shuffle is exercising. However, you need to make an effort to continue with your workouts, so make sure you schedule them in during this time of year. There are numerous studies that have shown that exercise improves mood. Plus, it is a great way to get rid of some of the calories you’ve consumed from eating sugary, fatty and rich festive foods.
- Don’t miss out on sleep – It can be easy to put sleep on the back burner when you have many commitments over Christmas, but it’s so important to make sure you get enough rest. Research shows that there is a link between lack of sleep and depression, which highlights why you need to be careful regarding how much sleep you cut back on. There are a number of ways you can make it easier to get a restful slumber if you do struggle for quality sleep. This includes avoiding all technology for an hour or more before you go to bed, making your bedroom a peaceful sanctuary, and ensuring the temperature is comfortable. These should all be part of your sleep hygiene anyway.
- Forget perfection – Striving for perfection can leave you feeling overwhelmed at Christmas. From finding the ideal gift to decorating, there are many different aspects associated with Christmas that can make you feel irritable and depressed if you don’t achieve what you or others have set for yourself. The key is to forget about perfection: it really doesn’t matter. Focus on things you can be grateful for rather than worrying about things that don’t really matter.
- Plan self-care time in advance – Another way to avoid Christmas depression triggers is by planning ahead. Think about how you can take care of yourself during the holiday period. You should come up with routines that are restorative, be it napping or reading a book, and make sure you actually add them to your calendar. This will ensure you do not have any excuses for missing time spent focusing on you. You need to think about what basics are going to help you through Christmas, and make these basics a priority.
- Avoid family conflict – Christmas usually means that a lot of family are going to get together. And, when a lot of family gets together, it’s easy for arguments to occur (no surprise there right? LOL). If you think there is a high chance of conflict, it is a good idea to prepare a neutral response that will diffuse the situation. For example, you can suggest that the topic is discussed another time, and then you can go play with the kids or offer to lend a hand in the kitchen. This can help diffuse the problem and attempt to ensure an argument doesn’t erupt or at least doesn’t lead to the police getting called!
- Allow yourself to grieve – A lot of people do not like Christmas because it reminds them of someone they have lost. If this applies to you, it is important to allow yourself to grieve. There is no right or wrong way to grieve; it’s all about what works for you. However, if you bottle your feelings in and stop yourself from grieving, it’s easy for emotions of anger to build up. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to begin the healing process. You could join a support group or simply open up to a family member or friend.
- Seek professional help – Last but not least, don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you feel you have tried everything. There is no shame in seeing a therapist or counselor if you need to. They can help you get the assistance you need, determine the source of the issue and how to deal with it. If you have any type of medical insurance, this is something you may not have to pay for, depending on your policy. You can find out more about this at https://www.gomedigap.com/what-is-medigap/. One or several therapy sessions can make all of the difference, leaving you feeling confident and positive about the year ahead.
Over to you
Hopefully, you now feel more prepared to tackle this time of year. Follow the tips above to help you avoid getting in a holiday slump and feeling the holiday blues. From exercising to cutting back on commitments, there are a number of ways you can avoid those Christmas depression triggers. However, if you still feel like nothing is working, do not be afraid to get help!
How are you planning to deal with any Christmas emotional triggers?