Are you struggling with sadness, depression or overwhelm during the holiday season? Here are helpful strategies to help you ease holiday depression.
Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Sadness
The holiday season is a joyful, exciting time of year — except when it isn’t.
If you are in the midst of grief, loss, or depression, happiness is the last thing you are feeling. The rest of the world seems merry and bright, and you feel gray and blah.
Even if you aren’t in a season of sadness, just the thought of the upcoming stress can be enough to make the best of us feel overwhelmed. Do you take a deep, nervous breath at the thought of everything coming up over the next few months? I have.
You might find yourself thinking (or saying) things like:
- I’d rather just skip the whole holiday thing.
- I wish I could just fast forward right through November and December.
- Bah humbug.
Maybe you love the holidays but then feel post-holiday blues when the celebrations are over.
Friends, I’ve been there.
I offer you hope. I know the holidays are not easy when you are down. I’ve had bleak holidays that felt terrible. I’ve had years I said every single one of the above statements, and some other statements that don’t belong in a family-friendly blog.
I’ve had holidays when I ate my way through the holiday sweets to the point when I was miserably sick to my stomach, yet I popped antacids and continued to eat more. Remembering back, I feel sad that I did that to myself, but it was the only coping strategy I knew at the time.
There is goodness and light after depression. You might not feel it today. That’s okay. Just hold on to the hope and believe that it’s there for you.
This post is not intended as medical advice. Consult a professional.
20 Easy Tips for Managing Holiday Depression, Stress, and Overwhelm
Here are some ideas for how to get through the holidays when you really want to hide until the middle of January.
- Remember, God does not change. God is the same God in December, March, and June. If you need to skip out on Thanksgiving dinner because of family issues, or read Psalms instead of the Christmas story because you are grieving over infertility issues, God does not care. Worship how you need to worship.
- Pray. During my times of depression, God often seems so far away. My head knows He is there, but my heart feels light years away from God. Pray anyway. This is because my feelings are numb. I need to remember that my feelings are just that — fickle human feelings. This doesn’t mean God loves me any less.
- Soak in God’s Word. Now is the time to soak up every promise of the Bible you can get your hands around. The My Holiday Hope Toolbox has printable Bible verse cards. Print these and put them up where you will see them often.
- Create a holiday plan. Most beneficial is going into the holidays with a plan instead of blindly stumbling through. You know it will be tough. How will you manage it?
- Get sunlight every day. Natural sunlight is best, but if that is not possible consider an artificial light to enhance mood.
- Change things up. Who says you have to do what’s traditional? Go to the movies. Get out of town. Do something completely different.
- Be realistic. Don’t try to do and be it all.
- Plan for family conflict. Conflict will come because all families are full of sinful human beings. Create a plan in advance for how you will manage it.
- Have a party plan. Check out this idea for how to party and not regret it in the morning. (It’s not what you would expect.)
- Keep routines. One thing I’ve learned from having kids with special needs is that they need to keep their typical routines. Too much of a good thing is not good. You are the same way in the midst of any type of depression, anxiety, or grief. Be gentle with yourself and realize you need to go slowly and keep things simple.
- Allow grief. Allow the grief to be there. Everyone has some sadness, stress, and overwhelm at the holiday season. Don’t kid yourself into thinking everyone else is having a picture-perfect holiday. We aren’t.
- Schedule in rest. Actually plan for rest time and sleep time because otherwise it WILL. NOT. HAPPEN. (Can I hear an amen?!)
- Let other people in. Oh gosh this is a tough one during times of depression. You tend to want to crawl into your hole (in my case, my bed with the covers over my head). Time away for refreshment is okay, but don’t withdraw. You need people and they need you.
- Add in physical activity. Plan for a way to increase your physical activity in November and December in a small way. That will look different for each of us. Some ideas: 500 more steps per day, 15 minutes of active cleaning each day, 5 minutes of walking up and down steps, once a week meeting a friend for a walk and gab session.
- Take deep breaths. Often. Good ones.
- What’s fun for YOU? Have you ever actually considered what YOU want do to for the holidays? A couple years ago I asked myself this question and was shocked to realize I had never considered it before. I have spent so much time doing for others, I had not considered what I might like to do.
- Eat extra produce. Plan to incorporate 2 extra servings of produce in each day between now and the end of the year. Instead of taking something away (no sugar!), add in something healthy. It’s a more positive mind-set.
- Laugh. Don’t take it all so seriously. When something ridiculously stupid happens — because it will — laugh about it!
- Don’t assume the worst. The holidays really might not be as bad as you expect. I’ve often heard people say, “I thought the holidays were going to be terrible, but it honestly wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. The anticipation was the worst part.”
- Help someone else. Plan to do something for someone less fortunate than you. The act of giving will make you feel fantastic, and you will be spreading God’s love into the world.
Helpful ideas are from www.webmd.com, www.health.com, and personal experience.
The Holiday Hope Toolbox – PDF Printable Workbook
Because of the fantastic response to the series The Hope Toolbox: Practical Help for Depression and Anxiety and My Hope Toolbox Printable Kit, I am thrilled to offer a holiday printable kit!
The Holiday Hope Toolbox includes 18 beautiful pages of helpful resources, including journaling pages in a variety of colors (print a variety or choose just your favorites!), journaling prompts for working through tough holiday issues, Bible Verse cards, and more.
A printable workbook with 18 colorful pages.
Do you have a friend who needs this great resource? Please forward this page to them.
Psalm 42:11 tells us, “O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Put your hope in God this holiday season, and He will carry you.
How will you manage sadness and overwhelm this holiday season? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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Ruthie Gray says
Sara, sharing this with my fb readers Wednesday. I know I have a few who are barely making it through tough times right now. Thank you for taking the time to create this wonderful resource! 🙂
These are great reminders and suggestions, Sara! Thank you for the valuable resource!
Michele Morin says
So practical and encouraging. We do turn the holiday season into a minefield. These are cautionary words for us, and you have also shown us the importance of making God the focus of our holiday celebration. Blessings!