does depression rise during holidays

Tips for Preventing Holiday Stress and Depression

Taking control of the holidays is no easy feat. A popular misconception that has been debunked in recent years is the false connection between increased suicide and winter months (there’s actually a spike in the spring), but things like seasonal affective disorder, failed expectations, and loneliness still weigh heavy amongst a lot of people during the holidays.

While the holidays themselves don’t make bad thoughts appear, they can enhance pre-existing mental health conditions, so no matter what’s weighing you down, here are some tactics for avoiding depression and coping with stress during any time of the year. 

1. Be intentional before you react.

Certainly, you’ve heard of trends that focus on taking breaks from social media, but this approach isn’t about taking rid of anything – it’s about getting the important things in your day done before reacting at the expense of others. Waking up and being intentional about what’s important to you, like reading or eating breakfast with your family, allows you to sit within your own space before you join the reactive world. It’s a practice to parent yourself and make sure your decisions aren’t ruled by the emotional reactions that can easily be triggered by things like social media.

Many life coaches follow the approach of actively listening to the messages in our lives. When we learn from our messages, they become lessons. When we don’t, they become problems and create chaos that could otherwise be avoided. Doing that inner work is key to facing difficult situations, and it’s important to understand that those around you may not live up to the same standards that you practice in your own life.

2. Take an adult timeout.

Having emotional reactions isn’t your fault, but it is up to you to properly deal with them. Taking a moment to consciously sit with your emotions allows you to respond in a way that effectively uses your power, and reacting while under stress can be fatal to your intentions. 

If you feel controlled by negative impulses, try categorizing your feelings. Another technique is following up with questions before saying how you feel. Oftentimes, we become triggered by our personal values that are violated, but understanding that others don’t share your values is a step towards calming yourself down, even if you don’t fundamentally agree with them.

3. Let bygones be bygones.

Have a family member that couldn’t be more different than you? We all do. Like stated before, our belief systems vary and are the basis of how we perceive everything in life. Whether it’s politics, religions, or your opinions on what someone wore on the red carpet, there are some things just not worth arguing over if engaging in discussion takes a toll on you emotionally. Ever heard the phrase “If it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it?” Live it.

4. Exercise that powerful “no”. 

Holidays arrive with a long list of obligations, but if those obligations get to a point where they breach your personal happiness, it’s okay to say no. You can even inform your family and friends of your limitations beforehand, that way everyone has the same expectations. 

There’s no guilt in defining boundaries for your own mental stability, and there are ways to be courteous when declining something. Saying ‘yes’ may feel good in the moment, but following up on promises you’re not actually interested in keeping doesn’t feel good at all. It can be as simple as proposing an alternative that you’re more comfortable with or complimenting someone before you say no, like “Auntie, I love you, but I’d rather talk about other topics at the table.”

5. Stick to your healthy habits.

Since stress can physically manifest not only in your mind but also in your body, through things like high blood pressure and heart problems, holding on to habits that help you cope with stress receives a resounding yes no matter what circumstance you’re in. What kind of sexual wellness blog would we be if we didn’t bring up the fact that masturbation is a huge stress reliever? It also boosts self-esteem and helps you sleep better at night – all things that can put you in a better headspace for the holidays.

When faced with stress, the body releases adrenaline in a “fight or flight” response. According to the CDC, some of the healthiest ways to cope with stress are to take care of your body through smart eating, exercise, and plenty of sleep. Drugs and alcohol may seem like a temporary escape from stress, but in reality, they enhance problems because they are depressants by nature. Last, but certainly not least, simply talking about what is bothering you can take heaps of anxiety off your chest (whether that be with a friend, therapist, complete stranger, pen on paper, and of course, with the person who’s trigerring that stress).

6. Reach out for help if you feel that you need it.

If you or someone you know feels seriously trapped by stress or depression, call Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746.