Christmas is around the corner, but some people don’t feel like celebrating. For many depressed individuals, this time of the year is a far cry from being wonderful. Christmas can encourage and exacerbate mental health issues. The good news is you are not alone. If you are not feeling great lately, there are things you can do to protect your mental well-being. Read on how to beat off mental illness and stop being depressed at Christmas.
How to Combat the Feelings of Depression
Family holidays can be particularly difficult for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, loneliness, or other types of mental conditions. The social pressure to have the perfect, Merry Christmas, can affect anyone, even those people with no preexisting mental health issues.
This time of the year encourages people all over the world to spend, drink, and eat more. That’s a situation that can make anyone feel overwhelmed. Throughout this article, you will learn how to cope with mental illness during the festive period.
Depression and Loneliness at Christmas
At Christmas, everybody seems to be surrounded by their loved ones, which can make lonely people feel even sadder. If you suffer from depression, you might blame yourself for not being able to have fun when you are supposed to. But truth be told, many Americans find the festive period something to be endured rather than celebrated.
People often set unrealistic expectations when it comes to Christmas, regardless of the situation. However, 2020 has not been easy for pretty much anyone. The world is still struggling to defeat COVID-19, a virus that turned our lives upside down. Lockdown has taken its toll on our mental health, so if you are not at your best this year, you are definitely not alone.
Christmas in COVID-19 Season
The COVID-19 has caused emotional, physical, and psychological distress. Studies suggest that the rates of depression are three times higher now compared to the beginning of the pandemic. The findings are on par with those from major traumatic events, such as September 11, 2001. After the terrorist attacks, nearly 10% of Manhattan residents showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
In addition to the pandemic, depressed and lonely individuals have now to cope with the festive season and the distress they will experience as a result. Luckily for those who are not likely to enjoy Christmas, the winter holidays will be over soon. Unlike the pandemic, the festive period has a start and end date.
You might be alone and depressed at Christmas for several reasons, such as work or the death of a loved one. Instead of letting your depressive thoughts take over, ask yourself if the winter holidays are that important to you. For many people, Christmas is just a period where people spend money, eat compulsively, and even fight. There is nothing wrong with spending Christmas alone. So if you are not a big fan of the festive season, simply take it as a public holiday or a bunch of Sundays. If, however, Christmas is big for you, get hold of a health care professional in order to prevent your depressive symptoms from getting worse.
Stigma around Depression
In America, 1 out of 5 people struggles with a mental disorder. However, the stigma around depression, anxiety, and other types of conditions can prevent people from reaching out and receiving the help they need. Even from their loved ones. Sadly, around 60% of adults who struggle with mental illness never get professional treatment.
The major reason is probably the misinformation about mental health conditions. For example, the World Survey of Mental Illness revealed in 2015 that only 7% of surveyees from developed countries believed that people could overcome depression and other mental conditions. In addition, they supported the statement that individuals who suffered from a mental illness were more violent than others.
Despite the years of anti-stigma campaigns, people seem more fearful of mental illness than ever. Americans continue to be suspicious of depressed individuals. Recent research revealed that nearly 70% of Americans do not want someone depressed, bipolar, or schizophrenic to join their families. Meanwhile, almost 60% preferred not to have people with mental illness at work.
Unfortunately, some attitudes have worsened over time. In addition to being inaccurate, judgmental beliefs about mental illness come at a major cost to society. Currently, more than 75 million Americans live with the fear that others will discover their disorders. As a result, many people in the U.S. who feel lonely, lazy, anxious, or depressed avoid treatment.
Nevertheless, after decades of well-intended but highly ineffective efforts to turn the tide of public opinion, researchers are now starting to understand the underpinnings of stigma. Every family in America has someone with mental illness, so making the population aware of this fact might be the key to success.
How to Cope with Depression at Christmas
If you have previously been diagnosed with this condition, the best thing you can do during the festive season is to continue with your treatment and management plan. A holiday is not a reason to neglect to look after yourself, so be sure to make your well-being a priority. There is no one-size-fits-all therapy, so continue with the practices that suit you best.
If, on the other hand, you have never been diagnosed with depression but you have been feeling sad, lazy, or lonely for more than two weeks, seek professional help. While some practices may be closed during the festive period, most psychiatrists and psychologists will continue to offer emergency consultations. If you are showing signs of depression, get hold of a health care professional as soon as possible.
Depression and Suicide
If left untreated, mental illness can result in suicide, a leading cause of death in the United States. The impact of suicide goes beyond the person who attempts to end his or her life. It can have a lasting effect on relatives, friends, and communities. Suicide does not discriminate and poses a risk to depressed individuals of all ages, genders, and ethnicities.
Predicting who will act on suicidal thoughts is extremely difficult. Make sure to seek help if you or someone you know is considering the idea of suicide. The following behaviors are red flags to look for this Christmas:
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- Selling or giving belongings away
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Taking unnecessary risks, such as reckless driving
- Feelings of loneliness or hopelessness
- Speaking about death
These conducts are a sign of extreme distress and therefore should not be overlooked. Often, family members are the first to recognize these warnings. Then they can take the first steps to put mentally ill people on their way to recovery. Generally, people spend more time together at Christmas, which can help monitor a severely depressed person’s behavior.
What Can You Do if You are Depressed at Christmas
There are three general things you can do to cope with depression during this winter holiday. First, you can address your mental health and find out how it is contributing to your sadness and loneliness. If you find yourself unable to beat depression off, be sure to contact a general practitioner, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. Although the therapy sessions will only last for around one hour, health care professionals will provide you with guidance to defeat mental illness on your own.
Christmas is a good moment to think about all the things you could be grateful for. This can be a place to live in or the money to buy food every day. However, severely depressed individuals are not likely to appreciate life, and that is also ok, as well as completely normal. If you are plagued with negative thoughts, try to reframe them by applying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s a highly effective treatment you can learn about on the Internet.
In short, this therapy involves efforts to change thinking patterns. The strategies include identifying the thoughts that are causing issues to later reevaluate them from a more realistic perspective. Many studies have revealed that self-directed CBT therapy can be extremely effective when it comes to treating anxiety and depression. Research also shows that people are likely to maintain their progress over time. That can be very encouraging to those that cannot afford to see a therapist once a week. Traditional CTB treatment, on average, requires fifteen 45-minute weekly sessions. This therapy is used to treat a wide range of conditions, such as anxiety, addictions, bipolar disorder, phobias, panic attacks, or eating disorders.
Fighting Depression at Christmas with Other People
Another thing you can do to cope with the feelings of loneliness is to force yourself to get out of the house. Even if you are unhappy with your current life, you can still make someone’s existence better. There are loads of charities that need your help out there. Consider bringing gifts to sick children in a hospital or serving dinner at a soup kitchen, COVID-19 restrictions permitting. If the social distancing regulations won’t let you interact with other people, offer to help at the local animal shelters. Volunteering is a great way to connect with others, bring joy to other people, and boost your self-esteem.
Perhaps you are alone and depressed at Christmas because you turned down an invitation. If you change your mind, the third thing you can do is to get hold of your friends and family. Let them know you are in the mood for celebrating. Know that it is OK to contact these people and ask them to have you in. They will be extremely happy to learn you are willing to join them.
How Technology can Help Depressed People at Christmas
If however, you are unable to celebrate Christmas with your loved ones, try to join or set – up a Skype or Zoom video call. The world is full of people who, for several reasons, have no choice but to spend December holidays alone. You don’t feel like celebrating with your family online or simply do not have the chance to do so? Get hold of your friends and invite them to catch up.
Lots of people spend their winter holidays solo. Some have demanding work schedules, while others might not have the money to visit their home countries. In addition, many people won’t be able to spend time with their loved ones this year due to the ongoing pandemic and the social distancing guidelines. Simply talk to your friends and find out who is in a similar situation. The outcome of this experiment is likely to surprise you.
The Importance of Getting Help when Feeling Depressed at Christmas
Often, the media portrays depressed people as individuals who refuse to leave their home while crying around. Although this is certainly how a depressed, lonely person can behave, there is more to mental illness. Some people can go a long way to hide depression from their loved ones, which prevents them from seeking help. Early treatment, however, is crucial to defeat mental illness.
In addition to ending up in suicide, depression can mask other serious health issues. Mental ill people can mistake infections or other severe conditions for regular fatigue caused by depression. As a result, they might not seek medical help to later discover ulcers or even cancers, when it’s already too late. There is no need to become a hypochondriac, but getting help removes one possible reason for the pain you might be experiencing.
Many depressed individuals tend to self-medicate or rely on recreational drugs or alcohol to treat their symptoms. This can worsen the situation, eventually putting their overall well-being and lives at risk. Visiting a psychologist or a psychiatrist when experiencing the first depressive symptoms can take away the urge to self medicate. This can provide the patient with information on the consequences of alcohol or drug abuse, as well as guidance to cope with mental illness on their own.
Treating depression is an essential part of health care, as important as monitoring your weight or checking your cholesterol levels. Are you feeling lonely, hopeless or lazy for more than two weeks? Do not wait until Christmas is over to get professional help.