Dealing with Christmas Depression
You have probably heard that there are more suicides around Christmas than any other time of the year. This is actually a myth – suicides are more common in spring and summer. The lonely, despondent great aunt who does herself in with a cocktail of painkillers and spiked eggnog just isn’t that common. However, around Christmas time, there is a high incidence of depression. One survey found that nearly 50% reported “dreading” the upcoming season, ensuring Christmas depression is very common, indeed.
I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, but I think this is something worth addressing. After all, there are songs proclaiming that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year”. And the season is getting longer. When I grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Christmas didn’t start until mid-December – at least. Now, shortly after Halloween it’s not out of the question to hear Christmas music playing in stores – ad nauseam. A lot of people profess to love it – but how much do we, really?
Christmas and Substance Abuse
What I do is write about substance abuse. But for many Americans, Christmas depression and holiday substance abuse go hand-in-hand. And it seems like more people drink around the holidays. For those who use drugs or drink, I can relate to the temptation to indulge. After all, it can be construed as party time, or time to be angry at one relative or another to which you no longer speak. I can picture recent divorcees slamming back the beers in order to kill the pain surrounding the loss of their family structure.
This fact is pretty much evidence by the high incidence of drunk driving accidents. And if you or someone you know is involved in one of these, that can be SUPER depressing.
And then, there’s the fact that some of us are forced to spend time with family members we’d rather not see. I have one friend who straight up said he didn’t want to go his family’s Christmas – and he has pretty good reasons for it. Still, he went. I got a text last night that announced “I think I’m going to drink now.” And he doesn’t drink that often. However, it was the last time I heard from him.
During Christmas, we are suppose to joyous and grateful for family. Well, not everyone is in a position to do that. Especially if one is estranged from family, or simply doesn’t have one to begin with. Over the last year, I worked part time in an adult foster care facility. I can see the toll it takes on older people who can’t physically keep up with Christmas festivities, or endure short visits by impatient children and grandchildren.
But what is the most common reason for Christmas depression? One possible culprit is SAD (seasonal affective disorder) – but that only works for those in snowy climates. It’s more likely the let down of huge expectations as to how the Christmas experience will be. Also, many people seem to do a lot of self-analysis. Probably partially due to the end of the year and the new year just around the corner.
The Christmas Marketing Myth
There is also a lot of pressure these days due to the commercialization of Christmas. If you can’t spend $500 on your children, you may somehow feel like you’ve failed. Every kid wants every toy and game marketed by the media. And if you have to host a holiday party, including the food, you are probably under a lot of stress to perform. In the past, more people came together to make these gatherings a joint effort. Now, one may expect to show up to relatives with merely a store-bought apple pie in hand.
People who feel excessively under pressure to perform at Christmas may end up feeling inadequate in the long run. The tales about Christmas light wars may be funny, but they may bring real stress to the individuals involved.
What You Can Do To Offset Depression
If you experience Christmas depression, I have compiled advice from the experts:
- Create a budget for gifts and decorations and stick with it.
- Set boundaries regarding social events. Don’t burn yourself out.
- Don’t think of Christmas as the most perfect time of the year. It’s just like every other time. Be realistic.
- Giving of yourself either via labor or monetarily to charity can make you feel better about the true meaning of the holiday season.
- No matter what your situation, think of those less fortunate.
- Don’t focus on what you don’t have or can’t do for your family.
- Take part in activities that make you feel good. Avoid engaging in events that feel like a chore. And don’t feel guilty about it.
- Think about what Christmas means to you, and ignore most of what the media says. Play by your rules, and focus on the positive, fun aspects of Christmas.
- Don’t indulge in substance abuse.
- Be yourself. Don’t feel pressured to live up to the expectations that many feel, are now at the center of the Christmas season.
If you or someone you know is an addict or alcoholic, please seek help immediately.