I remember when I first heard about people being depressed around the holidays. My only thought was, “Really?” As a young person, it was hard to understand how anyone could get down with all the good food and presents flying around. But as I got older, I began to understand holiday depression can be a real problem. Too much stress, too much shopping, too much family drama, and too little rest can make Jack a depressed boy or girl.
The Mayo Clinic has an article on their website entitled, Stress, Depression and the Holidays: 10 Tips for Coping1. I have adapted some of those tips and added spiritual perspective.
Acknowledge Your Feelings: The first step in dealing with holiday stress is to admit it is real and has real causes. It’s cold. We don’t get as much sunshine. And it’s easy to find ourselves cooped up inside all day. We can feel pressure to meet expectations for gifts, family events, cards, and get-togethers. Plus, the physical stress of shopping, traveling, mailing, cooking, and entertaining leaves us little room for rest and relaxation. I get tired just thinking about that sentence! No wonder we can be stressed out.
“a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”-Psalm 51:17
Be Honest With Yourself: Are you experiencing grief over a loss? Don’t be afraid to admit it to yourself. Saying everything is “fine” doesn’t work and is a lie to you and the other person. Mourning is normal. Don’t shortchange your emotional health just because it’s the holidays.
“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”-Ecclesiastes 7:2
Reach Out: Don’t sit in the house and feel sorry for yourself. Go to a movie. Talk to someone. Come to worship services and Bible class. Surround yourself with Christian friends.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”-Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Be Realistic: Don’t expect too much from the holidays. Norman Rockwell paintings are nice but our families don’t always meet that standard. Holiday events and family relationships can be sloppy sometimes. Don’t let an idealized vision of the holidays set you up for disappointment. Set a budget for gifts and stick to it. People will survive even if you don’t get them that fourth present.
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”-Proverbs 12:25
Get Some Rest: This can be an easy tip to overlook. But in the rush of going, going, going, we can forget that God created us with the need to rest. Along with being busy, we don’t always eat healthy food during the holidays (I didn’t say it isn’t good, just not healthy). The combination of stress, a change in diet, and a lack of rest can really get you down. Turn off your phone! Even our Savior realized the need for rest.
“And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”.-Mark 6:31
Exercise: It isn’t as easy or pleasurable to get up and exercise this time of year. Force yourself to get out and walk. Go to the mall (to walk, not shop) if you have to and get some exercise. Paul said, “bodily exercise profiteth little”-I Timothy 4:8 (KJV). But he didn’t say it doesn’t profit at all! Get your blood moving. I will lift your spirits.
And as the old songs says, “Don’t forget to pray.” May God bless us all this holiday season.