Holiday Depression: What is it & How to Cope

If you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, you may find that they get considerably more difficult to manage around the holidays. While everyone around you is feeling the holiday cheer, you may begin to feel even more isolated and may find yourself unable to even complete daily self-care tasks, such as showering and brushing your teeth. For some individuals suffering from depression, performance at work or school may also begin to suffer and bring on excessive drinking. If your depression seems to worsen during the holiday season, rest assured that you are not alone. It is not at all uncommon to experience holiday depression or holiday stress.

What is Depression?

It is important to understand that there is a significant difference between bouts of sadness and clinical depression. Sadness is usually transitory and a reaction to external events. Depression is a medical illness that persists and recurs. Individuals suffering from clinical depression may lose the ability to enjoy life and start experiencing difficulty functioning. Depression requires medical intervention to prevent feelings of apathy, hopelessness, suicidal ideation, and functional impairment.

Signs of Holiday Depression

The holidays are a time when many of us feel extra pressure to be happy and festive.

But for some, the holiday season can be a trigger for depression.

If you’re struggling with holiday depression, here are some signs to look out for:

1. Feeling hopeless, worthless or helpless – finding yourself feeling down about the future or your place in the world?

2. Low energy or trouble sleeping – Not being able to muster up enough energy to get through the day or having difficulty falling asleep at night can both be symptoms of depression.

3. Withdrawing from friends and family – The holidays are typically a time when we gather with loved ones, but if you’re depressed you may start withdrawing from social activities and isolating yourself more than usual.

4. Thoughts of harming yourself – suicidal thoughts are not uncommon among those suffering from depression

Why are People More Susceptible to Depression During the Holiday Season?

It can feel especially frustrating, overwhelming, and isolating to struggle with mental illness during the winter holidays. Holidays bring a myriad of added social obligations. It may be uncomfortable to explain how come you are feeling joyless during this time, not to mention nearly impossible to get out of the house and engage socially.

Major depressive disorder also often worsens during the winter time because of a significant lack of Vitamin D and reduced access to sunlight. The chilly weather often leads to less outdoor time. The change of the seasons brings about shorter days and less opportunity to be productive. Vitamin D and sunlight are critical to maintaining a balanced mood. Many individuals who experience the holiday blues are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can be treated with traditional antidepressants, natural sunlight, or an indoor sun lamp. Considering more frequent therapy sessions or additional augmentation strategies (ketamine, transcranial magnetic stimulation, alternative therapies) if you have an exacerbation of seasonal depression during the winter months may be necessary.

The winter holidays are often a stressful and emotionally loaded season. Many individuals spend time with family, reminisce about childhood memories, and begin to consider goals for the new year. These emotionally charged experiences unique to the holiday can be overwhelming and cause feelings of dread, despair, and disappointment. While severe depression may occur any time of year, the winter holiday season can be especially difficult for individuals who are feeling depressed.

How to Help a Loved One with Depression

It’s important to understand that depression is a real illness and cannot be overcome by willpower. Comments such as, “You have so much to be happy about” and “Snap out of it, we have a fun holiday party to attend!” may seem helpful, these comments serve to minimize the depression experience and cause increased feelings of being misunderstood, poor self-worth, and hopelessness. Remember, you wouldn’t tell a cancer patient to “snap out of it.” Instead of invalidating their illness try:

Spending Quality Time With Them

One of the best things you can do for someone suffering from holiday depression is to spend time with them. This can be difficult if you have a busy schedule, but try to make some time for them even if it’s just an hour or two each week.

If possible, do activities together that they enjoy and make sure to be supportive and understanding.

Encouraging Treatment

Many people experiencing depression or holiday stress can work with a mental health professional to manage their stress and negative feelings. Be sure to let your loved one know that you support therapeutic intervention. This can provide them with additional support and guidance during this difficult time.

Staying Connected

Individuals suffering from holiday blues often isolate themselves because of their illness. Even if your loved one declines your invitations, be sure to continue to reach out, continue to invite them to holiday gatherings, and let them know they are loved and remembered.

Being Mindful That They Are Not Their Illness

Depression and mental illness dramatically impact a person’s personality. Remember that your loved one is still whom you know and love and that their illness is taking a toll on whom you remember them to be.

Encouraging Self-Care

It’s important that those suffering from the holiday blues take care of themselves physically as well as emotionally.

Make sure they are eating healthy meals and getting enough exercise each day – both of these things will help boost their mood and energy levels.

How to Manage Holiday Depression

In some cases, people who have been clinically diagnosed with depression or seasonal affective disorder can find the holiday season so stressful that it causes their depression symptoms to worsen. Fortunately, managing depression during the holidays is possible using these excellent tips.

If you are in treatment, do not skip treatment during the holidays.

The biggest mistake someone can make is not continuing with their mental health treatment sessions for their depression. So, no matter how busy you might feel, remember to take the time to see your psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor. Maintenance sessions can provide a safe space for you to work through holiday stress and potentially triggering events, days, or even family members.

It is okay to limit your holiday activities.

If you know that attempting to attend every event, gathering, and get-together will cause you unwanted stress, do not do it. Instead, pick and choose a few holiday events you want to attend and politely decline the others.

Simplify your holiday decorating.

You do not have to “deck the halls” literally and decorate every room in the home. Instead, focus on a few of your favorite holiday decorations that put a smile on your face. Plus, don’t forget, the more you decorate, the more you will have to take down after the holidays, which could increase your stress levels and depressive symptoms.

Remember to eat healthy and well-balanced meals.

There is a growing body of evidence that shows that our guts are our second brains. Certainly, what we eat can impact our moods. The holidays can be a time to allow yourself some “cheat days,” which is acceptable. However, make sure to get plenty of healthy, well-balanced foods to ensure you are getting the nutrition your body and mind need.

Do not put off your exercise routines.

It is easy to want to put off exercising during the holidays simply because you feel like you have so much to do. However, when you exercise, the body releases various natural chemicals that can help alleviate depressive symptoms.

Set realistic goals and expectations.

It can be easy to set unattainable goals and expectations for yourself during the holidays. However, doing so will only cause you unwanted stress and anxiety. Instead, it is better to think about what is attainable and what is not and then set your goals and expectations. It’s OK to go small and manageable to avoid the holiday blues.

Have patience with yourself.

No one said you had to feel happy and joyous every day during the holiday season. It is normal to feel different from one day to the next. For example, you might feel upbeat one day and somewhat down the next. It’s OK to not feel OK sometimes.

Skip drinking alcohol.

Drinking can aggravate mental health conditions and make them worse. Furthermore, if you take medication to manage your depression, alcohol can impede its effectiveness. Instead, stick to non-alcohol beverages and mocktails.

Listen to yourself and monitor your symptoms.

You know yourself and your depressive symptoms better than anyone. So, pay attention to how you are feeling. If you notice your depressive symptoms are starting to surface, use the appropriate coping skills, counseling, and support systems you have in place for managing your depression.

What should I do if my symptoms do not improve?

If you notice the number of your “off days” is increasing, or the severity and intensity of your depressive symptoms are increasing, get the help you need. The worst thing you can do is do nothing when your symptoms are not improving.

Remember, you have several options available to you, including:

  • Increase the number of therapy sessions you have with your therapist.
  • Cut back on your holiday commitments and plans to alleviate excess stress.
  • Talk to your doctor about adjusting the dosage of your medication.
  • Consider alternative forms of treatment for managing your stress during the holidays, such as TMS therapyMeRT, and Spravato esketamine.

Depression Treatment Options

Traditional treatments for depression or seasonal affective disorder, like talk therapy and medications, are prevalent and often require several weeks to become effective. Many patients suffering from severe depression may work with a psychiatrist for months or even years trying to establish an effective psychotropic medication regimen. Even when effective, these medications often cause intolerable side effects such as weight gain, sexual impairment, cognitive dulling, fatigue and sleep disturbance. Individuals may be suffering from a mental health crisis with suicidal thoughts or have even attempted suicide. In crises, the extended time frame needed for therapy and medications to address symptoms may not be a reasonable option.

TMS for Holiday Depression

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. TMS has been shown to be an effective treatment for major depressive disorder, and it may also be helpful for holiday depression.

What Is Spravato?

Spravato is a low-dose, ketamine-based treatment for depression that works differently than oral medications to fight depression fast. During treatment, patients administer Spravato esketamine nasal spray themselves under the supervision of a healthcare provider and may feel dizzy, euphoric, or intoxicated. In a clinical study of adults with depression, those who took Spravato experienced a more significant reduction of depression symptoms at 24 hours and four weeks than those who received a placebo.

Treat the Holiday Blues at Neuro Wellness Spa

At Neuro Wellness Spa, our individualized mental health treatment options support each patient’s unique needs and journey. We understand that dealing with mental health can be difficult and oftentimes feel like you’ve tried everything. That’s why at Neuro Wellness Spa we offer a variety of services designed to help you on your journey to wellness. From transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to Spravato and medication management, we have the tools and resources to help you heal in your mind, body, and spirit. Call us today to schedule a consultation with a mental health professional.

• • Get in touch • •

Contact Us

    Could TMS Therapy Be Right For You?

    I struggle with depression, OCD or anxiety.

    I am experiencing sadness, low energy, difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, appetite changes, irritability or weight gain/loss.

    I have tried, or am currently on, 1 or more antidepressant medications.

    I have tried talk therapy

    Has your doctor/therapist suggested you try TMS?

    Mental Health, Reimagined.
    Call Us Today

    Call Us Today