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What To Do If Your Holidays Aren’t Merry and Bright

Dec 26, 2023

The holidays have a knack of highlighting everything that is difficult about living with depression. For people living with mental health challenges, the holidays might not be the most wonderful time of the year, and constantly hearing songs alluding to that does NOT help.

Potential sources of unhappiness include high expectations, loneliness, and our old friend: stress. Our culture raises expectations of how this period of the year will feel – merry and bright, wonderful, jolly, etc. Whenever there is a gap between expectations and reality, it’s a recipe for dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Joyful images of holiday gatherings are hard to take if you’re lonely. In addition, one might feel nostalgic for holidays past with people who are no longer with us. The pressure to perform during the holidays as a friend, party planner, parent, or host are considerable. There are financial pressures, too – to buy gifts, go out to shows, etc. It’s a LOT.

Here are some tips if you have the holiday blues.

  • Lower your expectations. If you expect things to be just okay, perhaps they will be.
  • Remember that alcohol is a depressant. Don’t drink it if you’re feeling down. Some good coffee would be a better choice.
  • Instead of asking people how they feel, ask them what they’re going to do. Planning out some basic activities during each day brings back a feeling of control.
  • Avoid the stores and hit the parks instead. Incredibly for Minnesota, the weather is not so frightful.
  • To combat loneliness now is a good time to reach out for help and join a support group. NAMI is a good place to start.
  • Is there a neighbor’s door you can knock on just to say hello? This simple act can lift people’s spirits significantly, especially when it’s unexpected.
  • Be proactive about stress reduction practices. Try meditation, a body scan, or listen to a funny podcast.
  • Talk to your friends and family about expectations for gifts and agree on small but thoughtful gifts. Something homemade is my spouse’s favorite!
  • Lastly, take a media break. They are not going to let you forget about the holidays. Watch a few old movies instead.

If this time of year is not a particularly joyful one for you, know that you are not alone. To get connected to mental health resources, you can call People Incorporated’s Central Access Contact Center at 651-774-0011 or NAMI MN at 1-800-NAMI-HELPS. For immediate support, call or text 988.

by Russ Turner, Director of the Training Institute