Dealing with depression at Christmas
It is important to remember that having depression is not your fault. It is something which you have been managing and fighting, and sometimes having others help that fight can make you stronger. It can even be useful for them to have an insight into your coping checklist eg. A need to be alone if you are feeling quiet. Food to be left and you’ll help yourself. …whatever you will find the most helpful. By being direct, everyone is able to adapt in the most effective manner.
- Create a “coping” checklist and show those you are spending Christmas with.
- Have things that make you feel better easily accessible eg. Music that calms you; or photos that make you smile; or smells that evoke positive memories.
Think about being honest about your diagnosis to friends and family (or those with whom you’ll be spending Christmas). If they don’t know much about it, signpost them to websites or books you’ve found helpful.
- Make a list of websites or books which you found helped you, and give this to them to read.
Forget the need for an "insta-worthy" Christmas
The points above will help, but it is also important to add that the “need” many of us seem to feel to “have the most amazing Christmas” is a construct we sometimes place on ourselves...or feel driven to have because of a desire to share it on social media. It is not necessarily helped by the multitude of Christmas adverts showing people laughing and smiling together - especially in a year which has been tough, and Christmas seems to offer a little respite. But any social media accounts which are driving you to post pictures of the "#bestchristmasever" are first on my "unfollow"/"mute" list!
Life is to be lived and experienced, not compared and competed for.
-Unfollow any social media account that stirs up feelings of envy, competition or any form of negative emotion.
Solitude is OK!
If you would prefer to spend your meal with company but then retire to solitude, explain this – friends and family often try to understand more often than not, and may be more afraid of “getting it wrong”.
- Build time quiet times for yourself
- Maybe go for a walk (being mindful of the elements) – fresh air as well as natural daylight can be a mood enhancer.
- Try not to over-indulge, or find time to engage in some exercise – if your body feels more active, your thoughts may follow.
How to not feel guilty about feeling down at Christmas
As per the first paragraph – having a diagnosis (of anything) is not your fault. Managing it and helping others to help you can be a fight – and first of all, it can be very empowering to frame your thinking in this way. You are strong, and depression is something you are constantly battling. The symptoms of depression don’t stop or start just because it’s Christmas.
- Try to reframe yourself as a “fighter”
- Try to identify what has helped you feel better in the past and try to engage with that/have it near.
- With your coping checklist – perhaps also add a note of gratitude to your friends and family telling them why you value them so much.
I'll be discussing this topic on NLive Radio: County Culture with Paul Gifney this Sunday (20th December 2020) from 9pm.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilienceFor coaching tips and tools including positive psychology: click WORK WITH ME or SKILL PILL and here for Media appearances or Psych Q&A. Twitter/IG @draudreyt
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