The days are getting shorter and the holiday season is rapidly approaching. For many of us, the holiday season means good food and fun festivities. For people living with depression, however, the holidays can be a very difficult time of year. Even for those who feel confident in their coping strategies and feel stability in their mental health, the holiday season can inflict pain, anxiety, and stress. Although the holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year, it can also be the most expensive time of the year, the most lonely time of the year, and the most mentally taxing time of the year, especially for someone struggling with mental illness.
That’s why it’s important for friends and family members to be conscious of how the holiday season is impacting their loved one’s mental health. If someone in your life is experiencing holiday depression, you should feel empowered to offer support and friendship. We’ve gathered five healthy habits and practical tips to help.
Touch Base Regularly
Checking in and staying connected with your loved ones can be so hard in this day and age. Smartphones, social media, and the internet have made communication with our friends and family members easier than ever, but somehow we’ve never been more atomized as a society. It’s important to designate time to text friends, call parents, and do everything possible to combat social isolation.
Checking in on a regular basis is always helpful but can be particularly important during the holiday season. Consider scheduling a virtual coffee date, sending a quick text with a motivational message, making a call to see how their day is going, or stopping by their place to wave hello and catch up. Even the quickest conversation could make all the difference.
Touching base and checking in doesn’t have to be an action reserved for your loved ones with mental health conditions. Everyone is prone to feeling the effects of the holiday blues, and you don’t need to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder to be dealing with negative feelings.
During the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in gift giving and holiday parties. We can become so distracted with our own tasks and chores that we can forget to listen to a friend or family member when they are reaching out to us. Pay close attention when someone reaches out during the holiday season as they may be dealing with feelings, stress, and symptoms that may not be immediately visible.
In other words, whenever and however you decide to touch base and support your loved one, be an active listener. Allow them to open up to you and be there for them in a nonjudgmental way. When appropriate, respond and reflect back on what they have said. Don’t feel like you need to offer advice or resources. Instead, show them that you care enough to listen, validate their feelings, and respect what they have to say.
Suggest Stress-Relieving Activities
Once a person feels that he or she has been heard, it can be easier to offer encouragement and information. If you sense a loved one is struggling with holiday depression, seasonal affective disorder, or other mental health issues, offer to join them in a fun activity. Late fall is the perfect time to put on some soothing music, play board games, and distract yourself with something lighthearted and fun. Exercise is a proven treatment against depression, and going on a walk outside to enjoy the crisp autumn air can help mitigate stress levels and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Diet can also play an important role in mental health. Although the holidays are typically a time for hearty, soulful meals, occasionally mixing in healthy meals helps fuel your body and mind to ward off stress, sadness, and negative feelings.
Don’t Place Unnecessary Pressure & Respect Boundaries
When connecting with your loved ones during the holiday season, let them know that it’s okay to decline your offer. Sometimes when a loved one is experiencing holiday blues, the boldest act of self-care is to simply take time for themselves. Don’t pressure them to go out or stay out later if they don’t feel comfortable or if they are feeling depressed. Keep in mind that some holiday activities can trigger depression and conjure more stress or mood swings.
Also, stay mindful of where you invite your friend or family member. If crowds make them feel anxious, avoid places where there may be a lot of people. If they are in early recovery, find gatherings where drinks won’t be present. And, if your friend or family member does decline, don’t take that as a reason to stop inviting them to future outings. Be patient and continue to gently encourage their presence, while also maintaining your support and love.
Encourage Professional Help
Whether it’s just a case of the holiday blues or clinical depression, it’s hard to watch someone you care about struggle with their mental health. If you believe they could benefit from professional help, suggest they seek the advice of mental health professional. If you think it is applicable, you can also suggest alternative and complementary treatments such as TMS therapy or ketamine therapy. Be mindful of when and where you have this sensitive conversation, always use non-stigmatizing language, and offer meaningful support.
Let them know how important your relationship with them is to you and how it could benefit from their seeking therapy. If the first mental health professional they see isn’t the best match, encourage them to keep looking. Holiday depression is no joke, and it can turn into major depression or an anxiety disorder if not its not paid the proper attention.
Here for you as life happens …
To access your AWP EAP services, call 1-800-343-3822. Your EAP is here to help with family, work, health and legal issues. EAP Services are provided at no cost and are 100% confidential.
Alliance Work Partners is a professional service of Workers Assistance Program, Inc.
Copyright © 2022 Workers Assistance Program, Inc.