Although managing depression at the holidays requires more than just a few quick coping skills, If I had to give someone three things to do, it would be these:
Get More Light
The holidays come (for many) at the time of the year when there is the least amount of available daily sunlight. The shorter, darker days impact many who struggle with symptoms of depression…increasing fatigue, decreasing mood, and affecting appetite and sleep patterns.
For anyone whose depression worsens with the loss of sunlight, I recommend taking a short walk at lunchtime outside to get some sun exposure. Getting outside during the day (if you don’t get the opportunity to do this where you work or live) helps to break up the day, so your experience of arriving at work and departing in the dark isn’t all you experience of your environment. Also, keep your interior rooms bright with several lamps until about an hour before bedtime.
Just Say No to Drama
Everyone has increased demands placed on them during the holidays and co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family members (not to mention you!) may show the strain. People are eating unhealthy food more often, drinking alcohol more, sleeping less, trying to get more done in less time, and worrying about additional problems unique to holiday finances or family issues.
Sometimes that creates the opportunity for “drama” to unfold. Whether that occurs in the workplace, in the checkout line, or at family get togethers…the holidays are rarely the time to attempt to manage conflict successfully. Table any heated discussions or simply refuse to participate. When the holidays are over, you can revisit any issue that is unresolved when heads are cooler and everyone is less stressed.
Plan Your Pitstops
In the U.S., the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can feel like running a marathon for anyone with depression. So, like a good marathoner, plan your pitstops, where you’re going to stop, refresh, refuel, and relaunch.
Schedule in downtime, time with that friend who always helps you keep perspective, a session with your therapist, a massage, a nap, a run, or just time to chill alone. Write these into your planner, just as you would important commitments. Because they are.
Calculate how low your personal energy battery charge will be after events you are saying “yes” to, and schedule your recharge time accordingly. If you plan your pitstops, you’re less likely to run out of emotional fuel.