Seasonal Depression: Dealing with Sadness during the Holidays
As the holiday season approaches not everyone feels filled with joy. Many people dread this time of year. There is a perception – sometimes true, sometimes not – that families everywhere are coming together in joyous union. We can imagine that people have more company, are less lonely and relish being part of an upcoming celebratory time. For many, though, this is not their experience of this season. Some people feel more alone. They have lost loved ones and grieve more deeply at these times and feel their absence more powerfully. They feel lonely in the hustle and bustle of the seasonal crowd and bereft at family festivities. If you are one of these people and you know that the coming holiday season will bring you more pain than pleasure, due to hurtful memories and painful absences, it is actually possible to plan for this difficult time and any seasonal depression.
Often we let these dark times creep up on us and then just endure them. When you know a difficult time is coming, particularly at this holiday season when the rest of the world is frantic and busying themselves – happily or otherwise – consider doing some different things and making some changes. Prepare ahead for this difficult spell rather than waiting for it to strike and then feeling incapable of doing anything to raise your spirits. This idea also applies to difficult annual anniversaries – when emotional pain overwhelms you. Here are a few thoughts to prepare ahead for the harsh feelings of loss and the loneliness which encompasses them and to nip isolation and depressed feelings before they take hold of you:
- Think now, ahead of the impending sad time, of some changes you can make.
- Do something different – can you alter what you do, where you go, who you are with, your surroundings? Just because you have always done something doesn’t mean this must continue. Maybe it is time to break some patterns?
- Consider how to get some supportive company – look for some like-minded people. You are not the only person experiencing these feelings. Ask others for help and support and tell family members how you feel.
- Think outside of your own world and space – could you volunteer to help others? Is there someone in your own community that you could help? Look into this ahead of time and put some plans into operation if this is a possibility for you.
- A new project – could you embark on a creative project or find something which is manageable within your circumstances? If you can, begin to put this idea in motion now.
None of this means that you can’t just sit quietly, can’t go into some darkness for a while, can’t remember and feel loss and sadness. But for some people this darkness is not always transient and as the years pass it can get more and more difficult to bring yourself out of it. The problem with anniversaries and difficult seasonal times is that they can also become self-fulfilling prophecies. You have felt terrible for so many years that you now expect to continue to feel this way. Maybe it is time to change some things and consider other options? Consider putting some different things into this space of time. But crucially, and this is the key, plan for this time. Do not wait for the darkness to descend on you, as by the time this happens it is often too late to break out of your low mood.
If you know they are coming, plan for dark times and find things to put into this void so that the void does not consume you. Take more control and see if you can place a little light into that previously dark space of time. Rather than waiting for loneliness to overwhelm you, consider planning for sad times.
© Ruth Nina Welsh Be Your Own Counsellor & Coach