I know that a lot of times I assume I’ll never go through a depressive episode again when I’m on an emotional high and when I get knocked down, I find myself unprepared for facing my depression.
I always get a little sad around the holidays, partly because of the shorter days and change in season, but also because they remind me of some sadder times. Not only that, but my birthday also falls during “the holidays,” in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That always makes this time of year feel even more blah for me since (being real here), I haven’t had much of a birthday for the last few years. When I was in college, my birthday always fell during finals week, and I used that as an excuse to try to forget that my birthday was evening happening. When it comes to celebrating myself in such a blatant way, the thought alone brings up my issues around self-worth. It’s been hard for me to even want to make a big deal of myself like that, which has created a huge void around making the most of the holiday season.
But no more! This year I’m going into the holiday season with a self-care game plan, so that I’ll be ready when the holiday blues come around. I think that probably more people get the holiday blues than you would think, since this isn’t an issue that’s often talked about openly. First of all, there’s a huge stigma around depression and mental illness as it is, not to mention experiencing during a time of year that’s supposed to be about celebration and joy. If you’re struggling, know that you’re not alone.
Here’s how you can work to prevent the holiday blues from ruining your holiday cheer and create a better outlook around the holidays:
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Reach Out
Asking for help is always a courageous act. If you need support, don’t be afraid to ask! This could take on many different forms, from a close friend that you confide in to seeing a therapist. Last year I acquired a self-care buddy during this time of year, since it was worse than usual (thanks to a late November breakup and graduating from college in December), I felt like my whole world was falling apart! So I blatantly asked someone if we could check in every week and talk about real issues in our lives and she graciously agreed! I know it was really helpful to have that kind of extra support. Figure out what kind of support will most help you and take the necessary steps to ask for it.
2. Create A Self-Care Safety Plan
I’m a big fan of the self-care safety plan, which is basically a plan of action you create to go into self-care mode when you’re facing a crisis moment. Planning ahead will always put you ahead of the game, since you’ll have an idea of what you can do to help yourself feel better in the moment, instead of drowning in sorrow. Check out this model to get started!
3. Plan For Your Worst Moments
I know that a lot of times I assume I’ll never go through a depressive episode again when I’m on an emotional high...and when I get knocked down, I find myself unprepared to face my depression.
It can be tempting to try and not think about our worst times, but understanding them can help you better deal with them in the future, or better yet, prevent them! Instead of pushing out your darkness when you’re in a period of light, try to find a light switch. Understand what often triggers you into a downward spiral and work to avoid those triggers, or remove yourself from situations in which they arise. Decide what you will do to take action in those moments now instead of thinking you can deal with it as it comes to you. When I think about when I usually feel the worst during the holidays, it’s usually in the few days leading up to Christmas. So this year I’m going to plan to do some fun things with loved ones to prevent the blues from coming. Which leads me to...
4. Plan Ahead To Do Fun Things!
I know how depression can make you feel like you can’t do anything, but it is those things we avoid or think we can’t possibly do that will often help us the most. Pre-plan some fun holiday activities that you know you’ll look forward to this year to help you mitigate the blues. Spending too much time alone will not help you and planning some activities ahead of time will also make you more likely to show up to them rather than bail or fail to do anything at all. Even if you’re fighting it, or don’t feel like doing something, go out and have fun. You’ll be glad you did — any time I go and have fun rather than staying in, I never regret it. Ever! Remember this when you try to talk yourself out of doing things.
5. Go Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
Finally, trying new things, going on adventures, and pushing your limits can bring on adrenaline, dopamine, and all kinds of positive neurotransmitters that can combat sadness. So do something new this holiday season! I’m guessing you might have at least a few days off of work, so use this time to be daring and do something bold. It could even be something as simple as trying yoga or taking a painting class!
Challenging yourself is a great way to kiss your blues goodbye, since you’ll probably be too busy feeling like a badass to be sad.
No matter what, make sure to take care of yourself this holiday season and put your needs first!