Many people enjoy the holidays and celebrate all throughout the season. I, however, am the opposite of this. When the holidays approach, I find myself feeling more melancholic, more catatonic, more…down. It makes sense — my bipolar I is susceptible to being triggered as the Christmas lights come. Here’s the thing: I’m not alone. At all.
Just look at the statistics: a survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that 64 percent of respondents said the holidays worsen their condition, with 24 percent expressing that the holidays make their mental health “a lot” worse, and 40 percent saying their mental health is “somewhat” worse. I’m part of that 64 percent.
Then, there’s seasonal affective disorder, or S.A.D., a type of depression which can cause feelings of sadness, fatigue, and anxiety during the holiday season. While this can pair with many mental disorders, S.A.D. can affect anyone as the days get shorter, causing a shift in serotonin and melatonin — making it more difficult to fall into a comfortable, steady rhythm.
And with COVID-19, many gatherings will be smaller, or even canceled, which can lead to feelings of isolation — another trigger for depression.
Despite these hurdles, there are steps that you can take to manage your moods and keep your head above water during the winter blues.
Maintain as much of a routine as possible.
Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, as poor sleep habits can be a major trigger for irregular mood cycles and holiday blues. Exercise, take a shower, get dressed, eat healthy meals consistently — anything that will help to keep your day moving forward.
Keep stress levels lowered.
Reach out to a friend or family member about your feelings if you feel comfortable, or schedule time with a therapist/counselor to talk out the overwhelming feelings you have.
Find a healthy outlet.
Like cooking, or art, or reading, or music. Try to stay away from excessive alcohol, tobacco, eating, and drugs — while these might bring joy at first, the feelings afterward can be much more difficult to deal with and only contribute to seasonal depression.
Give yourself things to look forward to.
Buy a calendar and fill it with fun things to do in the future. Even if these plans are simply healthy activities, like painting your nails or walking your dog, you’ll enjoy seeing a block of time carved out for something that makes you happy. Nothing is too small!
Feel your feelings.
While the saying may be “ignorance is bliss,” this simply isn’t true when it comes to seasonal depression. Acknowledge what you’re feeling, even if you can’t find a direct source for the emotions. Don’t feel guilty for feeling down — this can spiral into even deeper feelings of resentment toward yourself. Your feelings are absolutely valid.
Reach out to help lines.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) national help line offers support 24/7, 365 days of the year, at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also extremely important, as they can direct your call to regional or local crisis centers. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) whenever you need to.
We know the holidays can be hard, especially if you suffer from seasonal depression. Hopefully some of these tips help you out this season! Please share any other coping mechanisms in the comments below.
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