Coping with holiday depression

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 15, 2017

In what should be the most joyous time of the year, many people struggle with depression. Starting with Thanksgiving, then Christmas and New Year, these are occasions when people are traditionally together with loved ones, friends and family.

Loved ones move away and start their own lives, friends get caught up with their own family, and family gets pulled in different directions. Sometimes everyone gets so frantic in the holiday rush that they don’t even realize who is sitting alone right under their noses.

Broken promises hurt more deeply in the holiday season. Speaking for myself, I would like to say to people, “Please don’t make a promise that you are not going to keep.” I try so hard not to tell someone I will do something if I’m not certain I am going to do it. It might be frustrating to hear me say, “I will try,” or “I’m not sure,” but in my book, that is far superior to saying I will do it and never giving a second thought to the matter.

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Feeling alone, or isolated, seems to be more prevalent during the holiday season. While everyone is running around shopping for each other, there are many who can’t even do this because of age, physical limitations, illness, or lack of funds. The simple task of grocery shopping for special foods or goodies might be impossible for some people. They wish they could participate in these simple things, but for whatever the reason, they cannot.

No one likes to feel like they are stuck on the outside of life looking in at others who appear to be having big fun. People who feel this way may question their own lives, their worth, or why their situation doesn’t allow them to enjoy the simple things they desire. Holidays can often be a time of personal reflection about failures, successes, age, or illness.

Another cause for seasonal depression is having lost a loved one during the previous year. Every holiday, birthday, and special occasion without that person refreshes the grief. Being in the hospital or having a loved one in the hospital during this festive season is also a cause for depression. There are some things in life we can’t change, but it is human nature to question those things and wonder how we might have brought about a different outcome. Looking backwards in such times seldom brings joy or comfort.

There is also a very real physical manifestation of depression that comes from shorter days and less sunlight in some individuals. It is known as seasonal affective disorder. There is a simple and sometimes effective solution to this. There are lights designed to give off more light that should be used daily. Also, getting out in the sunlight for a designated amount of time every day also helps.

What are my recommendations for combatting holiday depression? First of all, we can all think of someone who would benefit from our generosity and attention. It might be as simple as a phone call, Christmas card, a visit in person, a batch of cookies, a photograph, or a small gift. We all have limits on the cash we can afford to spend at Christmas, but most of what other people need has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with being reminded that they are not alone.

If I feel depression coming on during the holiday, I get up, get busy, think of others and little acts of kindness, and I am well on my way to shaking off the blues. I also avoid sappy Christmas movies about meeting the “perfect person” and falling instantly in love. I try to be kind to as many people as possible, and I also take time to do something for myself. A cup of hot chocolate and a good book, or making a phone call to someone I haven’t talked to in a while goes a long way to bring me cheer.

This is a season to show God’s love in all that we do. He is the reason for the season. He is the heart of love. In this season, perhaps more than any other, we get to become His hands, His feet, His voice of love, His act of kindness in the lives of others.

Reach Judith Victoria Hensley at or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.