Christmas depression - how to beat it
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
6th November, 20120 Comments
With Christmas less than 50 days away, the season to be merry is almost upon us. Yet, for many people Christmas is much more likely to be a time of depression, anxiety conflict and sadness. Figures show that the suicide rate is higher at Christmas and that the number of relationship breakdowns rises.
Perhaps it is understandable why this happens. There are pressures both financial and emotional on individuals and relationships that don’t exist in the same form as at other times of the year. “How will we get the latest toy for John”, “We went to your family for Christmas dinner last year”. Many people will spend Christmas alone, perhaps not seeing anyone for 2 weeks or more. Perhaps this is the first Christmas without a friend or a family member, this holiday time seems to bring it all into sharp focus.
While you might have these issues or feelings at other times of the year, the single thing which perhaps brings it all to a head is the expectation. Everyone is expected to be jolly, having a great time, smiling from ear to ear, when they are not too busy eating and being merry. This incongruence between our feelings of depression and feeling down contrasted with the world seemingly being happy emphasises differences and makes us more isolated.
There are ways in which you can survive depression at Christmas. While you may have hear some of it before it has a much greater significance as we approach a pressure point.
Regular exercise has been shown help with depression. That is not necessarily a trip to the gym; it can be a walk in the local park, or round the block. Indeed if you are stuck indoors with your family you may find that others want to come too. You can use the time to think through any fears and challenge any negative thoughts.
If you are worried or overwhelmed by a family event, think ahead and plan how you are to cope. Perhaps you could go for a short time. Perhaps there is someone who you could talk to who can stay with you and help you through the occasion. Finally remember that you don’t have to go to everything, you can send you apologies or politely decline the invitation.
Of course you may worry about when to visit people, so don’t be afraid to ask when it would be convenient, thinking ahead to when suits you. Perhaps you feel you are better in the morning.
Remember that while a little alcohol may take the edge of your anxiety, since alcohol is a depressant it can make the symptoms of depression worse. If you are feeling depressed alcohol is probably best avoided. If you think that medication might help you through perhaps you could speak to your GP either about getting medication or in reviewing your existing medication. Please remember that many medicines build up over weeks so make that appointment sooner rather than later.
This final point perhaps alludes to the greatest weapon in your armoury, talking to people about how you feel; good friends and family may be more supportive than you think. You may also want to consider the help of a counsellor or other professional.
If you find yourself in crisis organisations like Childline and the Samaritans operate 365 days a year. Yet if you can do a little preparation and work within your limits, perhaps you can get through Christmas.
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