It’s that time of year when many of us feel low. Why is that? How can you spot the signs of Christmas depression? And what can be done?
[At an all-time low and need help, fast? Book a Skype therapy session now and be chatting with a friendly, experienced counsellor as soon as tomorrow.]
Why do so many people feel low around Christmas?
There are the obvious, talked about reasons for Christmas depression. Loneliness, missing loved ones who have passed, family disputes, and money troubles. And of course all the parties can be a major trigger for those with alcohol dependency.
But Christmas is also right when some people are starting to experience the full effects of seasonal affective disorder. SAD is triggered by the onset of the cold and longer nights. So it’s worth noticing if your depression is in line with seasonal changes each year. Does your depression feel totally beyond your control? Does it start near Christmas, then clear up fully near spring?
Tis the season for… comparison?
But why do things like debt and family issues become more of a problem at Christmas? When we have the same issues year round?
Christmas is a public occasion. People around us share their plans, we watch people shopping for gifts, going on vacation. Social media becomes an onslaught of perfect family celebrations.
So the festive season causes us to compare ourselves to others. And comparing ourselves to others is one of the fastest ways to kill our self-esteem.
Myths about Christmas depression
Don’t assume that just because someone has family, or seems surrounded by friends, they can’t have Christmas depression.
Having family is one thing, but having family who make you feel loved and accepted is another. If someone feels they are never good enough for their family, Christmas can be a time of struggle.
And loneliness is not about being alone. It is about connection.
We can be surrounded by ‘friends’, and family, but if none of those friends know us well? If we know that, deep down, our family judges us just for being ourselves? We can feel lost.
What are the symptoms of Christmas depression?
Not sure if you are depressed or just stressed? Or worried about a loved one’s mental health?
The signs of Christmas depression can include:
For more about depression, see our free “Guide to Depression“.
Worried about yourself? Try our quiz, ‘Stressed, Depressed, or Both?”
So I’ve got Christmas depression. What now?
1. Stop the comparison.
Set a timer to go off at certain times of the day and check in with your thoughts over the last hour. Write down any comparisons you’ve made. Ask yourself, is this actually true, or an assumption?
What might you not know about the person you compared yourself too, what struggle might they secretly have?
How do you actually compare equally or favourably? Cross out the negative comparison and write this new, positive comparison down.
2. Push the gratitude.
Yes, it might be the last thing you feel like doing. But think of it like a lifeline – gratitude is proven to help moods.
Every morning, even if it’s when your brush your teeth, come up with three to five things you are grateful for.
Try not to just run through the words but to actually feel the gratitude. If the thing you are thinking of doesn’t evoke a true feeling, then find something else. If mince pies makes you feel a rush of joy that thinking about good health doesn’t, then it’s actually more effective to focus on the pies!
3. Go heavy on the self care.
Yes, reaching for the booze or eating the contents of the fridge might seem the best way to feel better, but it inevitably backfires. The more self care you can muster, the better.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. If you can’t bear the gym, just go for a walk. If you can’t stop the sugar, add in a salad.
Each mini choice to take care of yourself is a message to your brain that you matter.
4. Say no.
One of the best ways to take care of yourself is to say no. No to the Christmas sweater you hate, eating the ham your mother made when you are trying to go vegan, no to the ‘friends reunion’ that leaves you feeling awful for weeks on end.
Pleasing others at the expense of pleasing ourselves never works. And the more we say no to others, the more we say yes to ourselves, and create time for the things that actually make us feel better.
4. Seek support.
If you know that Christmas leaves you a mess, then book an appointment with a counsellor now. Because once depression hits, we are less and less capable to make that effort.
Remember that nowadays you don’t even have to leave the house but can book Skype therapy.
At the very least arrange with a friend to be on call when you put yourself in situations you know trigger you.
Need to talk to someone immediately? Call a free help line. The volunteers on the other end will be happy to help. If you are considering hurting yourself or others, do call emergency services.
Want to talk to someone to beat your Christmas depression this year? We connect you with top therapists in central London. Not in London or the UK? Our online booking platform connects you to Skype therapists no matter where you live.
Still have a question about Christmas depression, or want to share your experience and tips? Post in the public comment box below.