People frequently experience depression during the holidays.

A person who lives with depression may find that things get worse during the holiday season. On the other hand, it’s possible to go into depression during the holidays even if you don’t typically have it during the rest of the year.

There are many reasons that people experience depression during the holidays. The cause isn’t nearly as important as the solution, though.

Luckily, there are many little things that you can do to manage the issue.

1. Use All of Your Stress Management Tools

There is a lot of stress during the holidays. It can come from many sources including:

  • Financial strain due to gift giving, traveling, employment changes, etc.
  • Time management issues due to busy schedules
  • Triggers from childhood or other seasonal reminders
  • Spending time with extended family who may not share your social/political views
  • Social pressure to entertain house guests, get the right gifts, etc.

Since there are so many different sources of stress at this time of year, it is important to use every tool that you know to combat it.

Stress management tools include:

  • Clearing out space in your schedule to make room to relax
  • Meditation, prayer, and acts of mindfulness
  • Keeping a gratitude journal or daily list of what you’re glad for
  • Daily rituals such as taking a bath, reading a book, or going for a walk

The most important thing is that you don’t wait until the stress builds up. Instead, practice daily self-care and relaxation.

2. Anticipate but Don’t Ruminate

Stressful interactions with others often trigger depression during the holidays. For example, picture going to your family’s holiday gathering. Once there you have to deal with your relatives, who seem to say all of the things that make you feel bad about yourself and the world around you.

How can you cope with that?

The key is to plan for it in advance. However, don’t obsess over it. Planning can help you prepare but rumination just leads to more anxiety and exacerbates depression.

To prepare yourself, take the time to sit down and consider:

  • What scenarios are you likely to encounter?
  • Who is going to be triggering and in what way?
  • Is there any way for you to avoid stressful circumstances?
  • If not, how can you best handle the situation to reduce how stressful it is?

If you are aware of what could happen—and you have a plan for dealing with it—then you won’t feel so out of control.

3. Be Gentle with Yourself

If you live with depression, then chances are that you tend to be hard on yourself. You can ease some of the symptoms of depression if you practice self-compassion.

Here are some things to keep in mind this holiday season:

  • You don’t have to have the perfect holiday party.
  • It’s okay if you don’t give the best gifts—or any gifts at all!
  • Your home doesn’t have to be spotless to host guests.
  • It’s not necessary to attend every holiday event you’re invited to join.
  • The holidays are about enjoying time with the people that you love.
  • Practice affirmations that help strengthen self-esteem.

4. Eat Right and Exercise

How we treat our bodies greatly impacts depression. Unfortunately, we tend to get lazy at this time of year with both diet and exercise.

To counteract the extra strain of the holidays on your mood, try to reign in any bad habits of slacking with important self-care routines. Your mood will be better off for it!

5. Get Support for Depression During the Holidays

Depression thrives in solitude. Therefore, make time this holiday season to be with the people who support you best.

These may not be the family members that you feel obligated to see during the holidays. Instead, look to the friends, mentors, and professionals who know how to help you through your tough times. Don’t be afraid to reach out, even though it’s the holiday season!

Do you tend to get depression during the holidays? You don’t have to struggle through it alone. Learn more about our approach to depression treatment here.