In any year, there are a handful of reasons people get depressed during the winter holiday season. Perhaps they can’t get home to celebrate with family. Maybe money is tight and they can’t give the sorts of presents they’d like to or decorate their homes with.
Perhaps more personal reasons have made it difficult to feel the holiday joy.
This year, a global pandemic that has completely changed our old way of life, will be added to the list of holiday stressors.
We’ll talk about the unique stress the pandemic is causing this year, as well as general holiday stress. But, we won’t just go over these topics, we’ll also include helpful solutions. Ideally, we’d like you to be able to manage your stress and enjoy the season.
Rituals and traditions that we’ve been used to for most of our life will have to change this year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping holiday celebrations to people in your household or virtual gatherings if you want to extend outside your household. We’d also recommend following those guidelines until a vaccine is available and most people, yourself included, have been vaccinated.
Unfortunately it has to be this way, but small family gatherings have been spreading the COVID-19 virus at an alarming rate. Family members who attend gatherings with people outside their household assume no one has the virus, and one or two people end up spreading it to many.
A Tight Budget
Even in good years, many struggle with a tight budget around the holidays. We’re expected to give gifts to loved ones. This is a fun tradition, but it’s OK to be careful.
If you’re worried about not having enough money to spend on gifts, there are a couple of things you can do. Look for sales online. Black Friday isn’t the only day to go out and grab things at discount. In fact, participating in that tradition, the day after Thanksgiving, is likely to add to your stress. Look for online deals, because there are always a lot of them.
It’s nice to get your own kids one or two of the big things they really want. The adults in your life should understand that you are on a budget. For them especially, consider making gifts. Depending on your skills, there are so many memorable gifts you can make for others that will save you money. Consider calendars, photo books, drawings, tree ornaments, the act of making gifts for others can be a good way to let go of stress.
It’s always important to eat healthful food and limit junk food and alcohol, but these are things to pay even more attention to during the holidays.
There are going to be candy, cakes, and other desserts available. Watch your intake of these items. While we wouldn’t begrudge you eating a little more in the sweets department than during the rest of the year, it’s easy to overdo it. A sugar crash will just exacerbate depression, which in turn can bring on stress.
The same goes for alcohol consumption, but even more so. Yes, it can be nice to have a seasonal beer or a nip of rum in your eggnog, but don’t overdo it. That, too, can lead to depression and stress. In fact, drinking too much can make it much tougher to accomplish what you want to get done during the season, and that can really stress you out.
Get Enough Sleep
This may feel like a Catch-22 situation. When you’re stressed, it can be tougher to sleep. The problem is, if you don’t get enough sleep, that’s going to put more stress on your body.
Go to bed at the same time every night and shoot for enough sleep for you. For many, that’s about eight to nine hours. Also, get up at the same time. Sleeping in can feel wonderful but can get your sleep schedule off. A nap of an hour to an hour and a half during the day, if you can get it, may also help.
Get Enough Exercise
The type and amount of exercise you do is up to how used to it you are and what sort of exercise you enjoy. If you’re just starting to exercise again, don’t overdo it. It’s a good idea to see your doctor and ask for advice on where to start.
These days, with the restrictions set in place due to the spread of COVID-19, it may feel especially tough to exercise. You may have enjoyed going to the gym or the pool, and now you can’t. You can still get out and go for brisk walks or jogs. Just maintain plenty of social distance from others and wear a mask when you’re going to be within six to 12 feet of other people.
You can also work out to exercise videos at home. Exercise burns energy, elevates your endorphins, and relieves stress.
Don’t Overdo It
You may have a lot to do during the holiday season. It’s easy to recognize what needs to be done, but it’s equally important to recognize what doesn’t. If you’re feeling overburdened, consider what you can put off until another time.
It’s OK. No one expects you to be a superhero, and if they do, that’s unfair.
Talk to Someone
Talking to a friend, a close relative, or your therapist can do a world of good. Even if they don’t have helpful advice for you, just sharing your woes can make them easier to manage and reduce your stress. It’s easy to feel alone when you’re stressed, and that’s especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many of us are physically alone.
Make time to hang out with your friends over Skype, Zoom, or another video conferencing app. Video calls are easy these days and a great way to be social.
If for any reason your stress or depression are feeling too great, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with them online at their website, SuicidePreventionLifeline.org. Remember, you’re not alone.
We at hope you have a happy and safe holiday season. If you need a place to hide your kids’ presents or to store your artificial tree and ornaments when the holidays are over, we’re here to help. Just rent a unit online or over the phone.