It seems like there’s nothing but happy endings during the holidays – at least on TV or in the movies. In your life, though, that rosy picture may be far from reality. Just the thought of a bunch of annoying relatives flooding your house might send you into a depressive down-spiral.
There’s the uncle who always drinks too much and ends up making a fool of himself, the aunt who can’t help but get into your business and tell you how to make the mashed potatoes just right, the cousins who never leave until the crack of dawn, and the undisciplined nieces and nephews who always break something in your house that you especially cherished.
For you, depression and the holidays seem to go hand-in-hand. But it doesn’t have to be that way. What steps can you take to help you cope?
Five Steps to Help You Cope with Depression and the Holidays
1. Accept Your Feelings
For some of us, the holidays are full of stress and annoyance due to being confronted with relatives that can be difficult to handle (as in the examples above). For others, sadness and depression might weigh heavily on them because they’re reminded of the loved ones that are not with them any more. Whatever it is that causes you to feel depressed during the holiday season, the first step to coping is simply to acknowledge those emotions. And don’t feel bad over not liking the behavior of some relatives or for crying when you miss a loved one.
2. Stay Realistic
No matter how hard we try to make everything perfect, for ourselves or others, there’s always something that goes wrong. Control what you can – like setting a boundary on how long the party will be — and stick to it, so that your cousins know exactly when it’s time to go. Learn to accept what you can’t control – like the fact that some people just won’t be there.
3. Be Prepared
We can all benefit from thinking ahead and deciding how to handle matters if things should get rough. If you’re having family over, heading off any likely problems will help keep your anxiety at bay. Limit the amount of alcohol that’s available at your home if you have relatives that are inclined to overindulge. If you know your nieces and nephews tend to explore anything and everything, lock your cherished things out of their reach.
4. Encourage Others to Help
We always travel farther when we have companions. Invite others to assist you, especially when you’re the one that has family over. Why not ask your aunt to bring her famous mashed potatoes, instead of you having to make them? And then compliment her for how delicious they tasted. You not only avoid annoyance and a potentially depressed mood over her unsolicited advice, but you also become an example of how to set aside differences.
5. Remove Yourself if You Need To
When all else fails, step away. Of course, it helps if you don’t over-schedule yourself in the first place, but the possibility that things might get hectic despite your good planning always exists. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious, take a 15-minute break. Even if that means you’ll have to “pretend” you’re going to the restroom. The important thing is that you remove yourself from the situation and refresh yourself without distractions, slowing down your breathing, and restoring your calm.
Coping with depression and the holidays means you have to have a plan in place ahead of time. A step-by-step plan that you can commit to memory and follow the moment you feel yourself slip into a depressed mood. A plan that can help you, despite all the problems you might have to face, to experience a happy holiday season.