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Be Kind to Yourself to Ease Holiday Depression

by Erika Wettlaufer
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The holidays are a busy time of year for everyone. It is often a time we look forward to spending with family and friends and gathering to share meals and gifts with those we love. Whether we are celebrating traditions, spirituality and faith or both, the season is full of emotions which are hopefully mostly positive.

However, this time of year can also be a very difficult time. For many people, it’s become a time to remember and miss loved ones who have passed on, or even to stop and think about someone who is estranged from family and friends for a variety of reasons. Others may have moved far away from their families for a job or other social commitment and aren’t able to celebrate these traditions and faith celebrations with the people they love the most. It is also often a time of financial stress.

For those who experience anxiety and depression, the holiday season can be very challenging to manage the stress of and navigate the social expectations that they bring.
Having compassion for others is something we all try to practice, especially over the holiday season, but sometimes we forget this time of year to have compassion for ourselves.

Psychologist Maneet Bhatia says we all feel alone or isolated sometimes and that it is completely normal to feel lonely whether we are with other people or on our own. The key is to reach out for help, either by talking to someone you trust, or finding safe ways to reach out to others, either for assistance or even to help them.

Some ways to practice self-care over the holiday season include accepting help when you need it, ensuring you keep a good Holiday Sleep Routine through the busyness of the holidays, and ensure you are eating some healthy foods and getting regular exercise.

Also remind yourself that it’s ok to say “no” if you feel overwhelmed and unable to participate in a social event.

Balance the stress of the holiday with finding joy in the small things and taking it day by day.
That could also include helping others in order to improve your own mental health. You could do this by reaching out to someone you know is struggling and inviting them over for dinner or bringing dinner over to a family in need. Create a new tradition if you’re missing a loved one or are separated from your family or find a way to honour those no longer with us.

If you find yourself alone this year, volunteering can be a great way to be around other people, do something meaningful and help fight off the holiday blues. Lend a listening ear, don't shy away from uncomfortable conversations with friends and family. Go for coffee.
Having manageable expectations for ourselves and others is also important to remember. It is okay to share and show your grief or sense of loss or loneliness. Ask for help if you need it. You might find others are feeling the same way or can help you work out your feelings.

For more information, check out this 2017 Global News article on Holiday Depression.