Do you dread the holiday season? All the holiday parties and family gatherings make you feel hopeless and that your life is empty? Can’t bear another Christmas letter full of amazing vacations, talented children, and professional success? Being depressed when the holidays hit can be excruciating. But with a some effort and a few guidelines, you might find that this year might just turn out okay.
1) Make a plan of connectedness. When we aren’t feeling good about ourselves, we tend to isolate. Isolation means that our negative self-talk becomes the only voice we hear. Call someone everyday. Make plans to get together, if only briefly with others. Go see a movie or concert, even if you have to go alone. Don’t let the fact that you “don’t feel like it”, keep you from participating in the events you would ordinarily enjoy during the holidays. Even if you don’t have a wonderful time, the practice of pushing yourself to do those things, will ultimately speed your recovery.
2) You always have something to offer and we all feel better when we contribute to something/someone other than ourselves. Find some way you can volunteer your time this month. Work at a food bank, cold weather shelter, or volunteer to help out those who are in need of other services. Offer to help put a tree for an elderly neighbor, or better yet, help them take it down.
3) Focus on the fact that your feelings are just “for now”. Don’t project them into the future. You may not have a perfect New Years Eve THIS YEAR, but it doesn’t mean than that next year will be the same. You can’t always control what you feel, but you always have a choice about what you do with those feelings. So when you find yourself saying to yourself that you “will always be alone” or “never have a good Christmas” remind yourself that this is just one day of one year, not the rest of your life.
4) Lower your expectations and focus on your successes. Don’t expect that if you go to the office party, or have everyone over for dinner that you will magically feel better. Just take note of the good feelings you had when you reached out to connect and try to focus on the next positive thing that you are going to do for yourself.
5) Try to keep your schedule as consistent as possible. Don’t skimp on sleep exercise or eating right.
6) If you are currently in treatment, make sure you don’t skip appointments or medication. Many times clients feel that they need to save money because insurance has run out, and this tends to be an expensive time of year. Keeping your normal therapy schedule is essential to recovery. If you are not in treatment, but feel that you might need treatment, don’t put it off until January. Getting the right help now, is the first step toward feeling better.