Depressed at Christmas
Christmas for many people is a great time of the year where you get to spend time with family, enjoy fabulous gifts, eat, drink and be merry and listen to well-known Christmas songs. However, for an increasing number of people, Christmas fills them with fear and dread. Christmas can trigger negative emotions, particularly if you have depression or Christmas signifies an anniversary of past trauma, for example the death of a loved one. I have been speaking to many individuals both on a personal and professional level who have confided that they are unable to, or unwilling to engage in the festivities leading up to Christmas. Some are even contemplating ways to avoid spending time with family members on Christmas day.
When you have depression, many people often isolate themselves away from others so the sudden change where you may have to interact with many family members all at once, some of whom you may not have seen in a while, can appear daunting. You may also feel as though you will be expected to 'be happy' or put on an act as though you are enjoying yourself, when deep down you just want to crawl back into bed or be by yourself. Maybe the one person you would look forward to seeing at Christmas is no longer around, or the one person who would normally not be around suddenly decides to turn up, only adding to the stress that you already feel. You are in control of what happens to you at Christmas and beyond, so here are my top three tips if you're struggling to get through the Christmas period..
1. Prepare a plan of action in advance. If you are going to be spending Christmas at a relatives home, when things become too much for you, find an empty room or space and just take time out, sit, breathe, relax and then return to everyone when you're ready to.
2. Don't put pressure on yourself to act, feel or behave in a particular way. Let go of the expectations that you have on yourself and that others have on you and just be yourself. If something makes you cry, then cry. If you feel down, then become aware of it and respond in a way that feels natural to you.
3. Turn the occasion from a negative into a positive. You may be dreading it because you feel things are going to be bad, but what if things are going to be great? All of the scenarios that you are not looking forward to, visualise them as being great including your interactions with others, getting out of bed and getting ready on Christmas day etc.
Most of all, you can't avoid Christmas in terms of it being a particular day every year, but you can decide how you will respond to and experience it.
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About Marian Hanson
I have 16 years experience as a social worker working with children and families, seven years experience as a therapist and one year's experience as a counselling supervisor, during which time I have provided counselling to individuals, children and couples. I have also worked with women and young people who have experienced domestic violence.