The holidays are often a time when people struggle with depression. This year, in the midst of a pandemic, you may be more susceptible than ever. On top of that, if you become depressed you may also experience anxiety since the two often go hand in hand. It’s a double whammy during the holiday season, especially this year.
- The economy is shaky and you may have less to spend on gifts, let alone necessities.
- You may not be able to travel, and therefore you’ll miss the comfort of gathering with friends and family. And even if you are able to travel, it’s bound to be stressful.
- Many people will be sad about jobs lost, and friends and relatives sick or gone.
These are all legitimate reasons to be unhappy and feel anxious.
As the numbers of those stricken with the virus rise, so do our emotional challenges. What should you do about the holidays? Should you gather with family members? And if you do, how do you avoid conflict when there’s so much opportunity for disagreement? Can you trust them to isolate for enough time so you’ll all be safe? Everyone has different risk tolerances and the wisdom about how to respond to the virus changes as we learn more. And, of course, the holidays with family mean potential political disagreements which only ramp up the stress.
Add to all that the need to stay vigilant much longer than anyone had hoped—pandemic fatigue. As a result, you may be eating too much. Sleeping too much. Feeling distracted with difficulty in focusing and getting things done. Maybe you feel indecisive and fragmented.
Unless your work requires you to be out of the home, you’re bound to have a bit of cabin fever. You may feel left out and left behind. If you are out and about, you are no doubt concerned about the danger of contact with others and getting tired of having to be watchful and worried. Either way, you may feel pessimistic about the holidays—even hopeless or helpless.
You are definitely not alone if you feel any of the above. The pandemic and the holidays combine to make a perfect storm for situational depression. Here are some suggestions to help you feel better.
- Find a way to talk to friends and family who feel as you do, even if you can’t be physically together. It will do you good to have chats with like-minded people if only from afar. It’s the silver lining of not getting together with a group. Just select those with whom you are compatible and enjoy them without strife.
- Find a way to do good for others who need it. Organize a contactless secret Santa event with friends and leave treats on doorsteps. Take a festive meal to a family who will appreciate it. Check-in with elderly neighbors by phone. Do what you can for others and you’ll feel better yourself.
- Try to avoid social media and too much news. Make sure what news you do consume is from professional journalists and reliable sources—not personalities who spout opinions. And keep your social media to a minimum unless you’re sharing jokes and recipes or other positive interactions.
- Make a list of affirmations and refer to it often. Include things you’ve always meant to do that you now can take on—learn to meditate, read that classical novel, take online ukulele lessons. Add to the list things you will look forward to doing once you can be together with family and friends. You are being cautious during these perilous times to keep yourself and your family safe and secure. It’s worth it.
- Make an effort to do fun things—make appointments to be with friends online. Take a walk outside. Find fun games to play with friends online. Ride your bike. Organize your photos. Stay as physically active as possible.
Finally, when you do make it through the holidays and the months that follow during the pandemic, realize it will be over at some point. And if you have stayed vigilant you will have accomplished a great deal. You will have come through hard times and done the right thing. And that’s something to feel good about.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact