Usually around Thanksgiving until just after the New Year, I deal with depression far worse than any other time of the year. I am not anti-Christmas, contrary to popular belief. I’ve been pondering why the holidays are so difficult for me. In addition, I’ve included some tips that may help. What’s your way to remain calm throughout the holidays?
1. Winter was not a good time for my ancestors
Several far gone ancestors suffered and died during the winter months. In my lifetime, the deaths of family members have mostly occurred in the latter portion of the year. Not only do I always lose at least one family member, I am reminded of who is missing at the family dinners.
I take more anxiety medication during the holidays than any other time, including finals week of the semester. Deciding which family members to see when in a short amount of time prove the largest stress. I love seeing and visiting with family but it often results in logistical nightmares trying to get everyone’s schedule to agree. Then there are overnight accommodations and a resulting lack of sleep for two days. By the end of the three day holiday, I am exhausted and sleep deprived, haven’t had a moment to myself except for in the shower, and tired from resisting from being cranky. Holidays require an extra day in which to recover.
It is at this time that it becomes more than apparent that I am not Suzie Homemaker. I abhor cooking (but not baking), which the holiday seems to revolve around. On the other hand, I am very good at gift wrapping.
Gifting also makes me nervous. On the show The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon spazzes over gift giving, worrying that it will not be what the recipient wants, appropriate cost, etc. I have similar worries, especially living on a student budget.
On top of all the personal stress, I also use winter break as a time to complete school projects that would otherwise be impossible to complete during the regular semester. Because I am not enrolled in classes, most people do not understand that I still have work to do. As a result, I am seen as avoiding people.
3. I am not a Christian
As an Agnostic, Christmas is a time when I am bombarded with “Keep the Christ in Christmas,” tirades against the term “Xmas,” etc. While I am not opposed to Christianity, I do not appreciate it shoved down my throat for three months. And heaven forbid you mention Christmas came from a Pagan holiday. I have often wished to leave the country for a less religious one during this time.
4. I remember the dreams not yet obtained
For some reason, my mind chooses the end of the year to analyze my life. Most often these thoughts go towards what I want that I still have yet to accomplish. Most of this involves anxiety as to how my personal life will turn out. I overanalyze personal relationships and their possibility in leading to a happy and fulfilling future.
5. It’s frickin’ cold
I am a person that doesn’t handle cold temperatures well. I have Raynard’s Phenomenon, which is a fancy term for extremities that turn colors and experience frostbite at higher temperatures than normal people. So not only am I stressed, my skin is dry and itchy, my hands and feet are in constant pain. On the positive side, they turn pretty festive colors.
If it snows or ices, I am forced to remain in an apartment for multiple days, with or without power. While one snow day is amazing, after multiple days of the same 1,200 square foot hell, it starts to turn into a small scale version of The Shining. I’ve been so desperate to get out I’ve walked somewhere. The lack of sunlight is also not conducive to any kind of happiness.
6. Unrealistic expectations and overcommercialization
Due to the millions of Hallmark commercials and displays, Norman Rockwell arts, Coca-Cola ads, we see Christmas as a perfect, nuclear family-oriented day. Kids will be polite and quiet, excited for their Christmas gifts. The adult women will be happy to spend all day in the kitchen while the men will sit calmly watching football. In the evening, the perfect dinner with perfect tableware will be served to a quiet, mingling family. And afterwards, the dishes magically disappear, the kids fall asleep with their new toys, and the adults share a small glass of wine while marveling at the glorious Christmas tree. This does not happen, at least as far as I know.
However, due to these expectations we are often a little disappointed and depressed with the way our Christmases actually turn out. Maybe we have to spend the majority of time traveling between divorced parents, distanced siblings, or keeping some family members from killing others. Some relative will ask the embarrassing and inappropriate questions of ‘why aren’t you married?’ ‘Why don’t you have kids,” or ‘You’ve gained weight.’ This will also cause an acceleration of reason number four. ‘Yes, I’m not married, thanks for pointing that out.’
The “holiday blues” affect many people. If you have a family or friend that may seem a little more blue than normal, don’t simply call them a Grinch. They may be dealing with more than you know.
Suggestions to prevent holiday stress and depression
1. Snuggies, blankets, portable heaters, fireplaces, and hot chocolate
Comfy conditions definitely help, especially when it’s cold outside
2. Make realistic expectations for the holiday season
It is what it is.
3. Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
Learn to say no. And don’t feel guilty about it-you are only human.
4. Live in the moment, focus on the “right now”
Rather than the fourteen million things you need to do, enjoy whatever is happening
5. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the “good old days” of the past.
6. Find holiday activities that are free
Look at at holiday decorations, go window shopping. You could also have movie or video game marathons.
7. Limit your consumption of alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant. Excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
8. Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way
But don’t get too excited until you have the agreement of your significant other/family. Some are not as open to changing their holidays or creating new ones.
9. Spend time with supportive and caring people.
10. Make time for yourself!
“Me” time reduces the homicide rate
11. Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks
12. Keep track of your holiday spending
Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over. Extra bills with little budget to pay them can lead to further stress and depression.
13. Be crafty!
I find that doing a craft, which can be holiday oriented or not, can be very relaxing. Then you can give away your crafts as gifts. One year I made ornaments. I have also gotten together with a friend and made our Christmas crafts together.
14. Remember the holidays will end