4 Tips For Dealing With Holiday Depression

As alone as you may feel in your seasonal sadness, trust me, there are countless others out there facing similar struggles.

This is Day 9 of The Establishment’s 12 Days of Holiday Self Care series. You can read Day 1 here, Day 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 here, Day 5 here, Day 6 here, Day 7 here, and Day 8 here.

There’s no time like the holidays to relive old family trauma, miss loved ones, and generally feel lost and forgotten. For so many people, the holidays are the hardest time of the year, and all the social media displays of happiness from friends don’t help. As alone as you may feel in your seasonal sadness, trust me, there are countless others out there facing similar struggles. Here are a few tips for getting through the dark times.

Don’t add guilt about depression to your depression.

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Depression doesn’t just make you feel sad, it saps you of all your energy. The constant battle to just deal with the constant stream of thoughts or the immense weight suddenly placed upon your limbs is exhausting. Just living and breathing is a lot of work. But what often makes depression even worse is that while you are fighting to get by, you’re also piling guilt on yourself for not fighting harder or better. That little voice saying, “better people would have snapped out of it by now,” or “you’re bringing everybody down,” can send you spiraling deeper into depression. Just remember this — write it down if you have to: you are allowed to feel shitty. You are allowed to be antisocial and flat and unmotivated. You don’t owe anybody else your happiness. Yes, you want to get better, you want to feel better, but for a while, you’re going to feel shitty. That doesn’t mean you’re broken and it doesn’t mean you’re weak.

Externalize your depression voice.

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One of the fundamental truths about depression is that it is a dirty, dirty liar. Even though this voice is in your head, it’s not your voice. The voice of depression is a trickster, trying hard to not only convince you that you are a worthless failure, but that it was your idea all along. Get that voice out of your head. No, you really can’t silence it, and trying to just exhausts you and can make you feel like you failed yet another task.

Give the depression voice an identity — a face and a name. Preferably someone you know and maybe don’t like (but aren’t incredibly emotionally attached to), who you can picture clearly in your head. When that voice in your head says, “things are never going to get better,” turn your head and look at that person. That person is walking next to you, plain as day, saying these things. It’s not you, it’s just the world’s rudest shadow. Every time that voice pops up, turn your head and look at it. Geez, this voice is obsessed with you for some reason. I don’t know what its problem is, but you’re going to try to get on with your day while this voice continues to function as the worst cheerleader ever.

Stop doing one thing or do it differently.

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When we get depressed, there’s often a few actions that signify that we’re in it. Some people stop eating, some people drink, some people eat only cookies. For me, I’m just tired all the time. I’ll sleep through great swaths of the day. My need to sleep feels primal, biological. I’ll sleep 18 hours in a 24 hour period, only waking to briefly chastise myself for not going out and exercising like all the articles on depression recommend. I was talking to my therapist about this and she pointed out, “Ijeoma, you don’t go from sleeping 18 hours a day to running a 10k. That’s too much to ask of yourself.” She recommended that for the next week, I try to stay out of bed when it wasn’t regular sleeping hours. “Don’t try to do anything hard, don’t try to do anything at all, just don’t sleep. Stay out of your bed, stay out of your house if you have to. Listen to some music, write, draw, whatever you have to do, but your goal isn’t to do a new thing, it’s just to not sleep and to get used to that feeling.”

For the next week I focused on not sleeping when I felt the overwhelming urge. I did literally have to sit on my front porch. It was hard, I felt a panic rising in me like I might die if I didn’t sleep. That panic stayed with me for hours, and then it went away. By the end of the week, my desire to sleep all day had diminished greatly. It didn’t cure my depression, but it definitely helped. This may not be the time to quit smoking altogether, but maybe change the times and places you smoke. If you find that you’re only eating cookies, eat something that’s not cookies. Yes, that may mean you’re eating only potato chips for a while, but what you’re doing is letting yourself know that you can survive without this thing that you’re using to self-medicate. You’re trying to break the spell, if not the habit. Only do this with one thing at a time and make your alternative action simple. This isn’t do or die and some days, this just won’t be something you’ll be able to do. And that’s okay. Remember, depression is exhausting enough on its own, you don’t want to add too much on top of it.

Reach out, and remember that you don’t need a reason.

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Depression doesn’t always have a rhyme or reason, sometimes it just is. And that’s okay, it’s still valid and what you are going through is still just as shitty and worthy of understanding and compassion as those who have “real” reasons to be depressed. If you need to talk, or you need a hug, you can ask for that and you don’t need to explain what’s wrong.

You don’t even need to know what’s wrong. I know that people want to know why you’re depressed, but that’s because people are most comfortable when they feel like there’s a cause to pinpoint that they may be able to fix. It’s not that they don’t love you or don’t want to help, it’s just that depression can just be very hard for people who haven’t struggled with it to understand. But you don’t owe them or yourself an explanation. What’s happening to you is real and valid and you deserve love and support from friends and family, and if you don’t get that support, it has much more to do with the dysfunctional ways in which we as a society discuss depression than your worthiness as a person.

Images: freeimages.com

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