How Can I Manage My Depression this Holiday Season?

With the holidays near, many people are reminded of loved ones who are no longer around or family members whom they don’t get along with – this time can be incredibly stressful, and can even create depressive symptoms to those already susceptible. Dr. Steve Koh, a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of California, told CBS News“A lot of people feel like they’re supposed to be happy during the holidays. Everyone around them is telling them they’re supposed to be happy, and yet inside they don’t.”

Depression is experienced by around 14.8 million Americans each year, and it can certainly be heightened around the holidays, where added pressure and shorter days with less sunlight take a toll on one’s mental health. During this time, it’s incredibly important to take care of yourself – stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, go to bed at a decent hour, moderate the amount of food you eat, and get adequate exercise this season. If family stressors are adding to your depressive symptoms, speak to a licensed healthcare professional so that you can work through some of these issues and derive a plan to better handle these situations. There are several other ways you can manage your depression this holiday season:

  • Honor those who have passed. Dr. Koh told CBS News that lighting a candle, leaving an empty seat at the family dinner, or donating a gift in their name is a terrific way to acknowledge a loved one who’s passed.
  • Keep your expectations realistic. Too often, commercials and movies tell us that the holidays are all about love, laughter, and family – realistically, this isn’t always true. Many people around the U.S. spend holidays alone or create their own families.
  • Try new experiences. Volunteer at a local organization to meet others and give back to your community. Go on a new adventure with your loved ones to avoid feeling stuck.
  • Lean on your support system. Reach out to people whom your close with this holiday season. Express your love and gratitude for them, and receive words of appreciation from them as well.

Depression is a serious mental illness that can affect all aspects of life. If you’ve been having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you haven’t already, speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center to develop the skills you need to enjoy life again. Recovery is possible.