The end-of-year holidays can cause stress for anyone. When you take into consideration depression and anxiety disorders, the added triggers that come with the holidays can create a snowball effect, just in time for Christmas.
FAMILY…GOTTA LOVE ‘EM
It is no secret that the stress and anxiety of being around family members, even when we love them very much, can be all-consuming. Though there may be love in the air at the family gathering, there may also be some tension floating around. Circumstances like this can make being surrounded by family feel lonelier than being alone, which can lead to a depressive episode.
Gratitude helps me through these situations. It reminds me that I am lucky to have a family at all and makes me thankful for the lessons they have taught me (good and bad) about people and life.
ANXIETY IS NOT JUST FOR STRANGERS
My social anxiety flares up around friends, family, and strangers. Throw in the mandatory holiday party with co-workers and my anxiety can go through the roof. I find myself thinking in advance about what I will say to each person. What interesting questions will I ask? What if a question is asked of me? What will my answer be? I do not want to seem awkward. With all the overthinking, it never goes the way it went in my head. Inevitably, my awkwardness shows itself just as I feared.
I use positive affirmations and practice gratitude in order not to dwell on
these awkward moments. I have not perfected this just yet. I am hopeful this practice will improve with time.
SOMEONE IS MISSING
My mom passed away two years ago. This year her birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day. In the days prior, I psyched myself up with positive thoughts. But depression became inevitable. On her birthday/Thanksgiving Day, I planned to do some writing and go see a movie. Instead, I stayed home, eating and binge-watching Netflix.
The next day, I was having a hard time getting out of bed. I felt I had let
my mom down. My head felt heavy and I started to cry. I knew I was depressed. Taking deep breaths in and out, I placed my hands over my eyes. I envisioned how I wanted my day to go. I imagined myself getting out of bed, going to my favorite coffee shop and writing while sipping on hot tea. The more I thought of how good it would make me feel, the more motivation I gained to do it. I was eventually able to get out of bed, take a shower, get dressed in sweats and drag myself to that coffee shop. Feeling good about that accomplishment, I decided to ride the wave and go see a movie. It turned out to be a good day.
The next two days were the same as her birthday/Thanksgiving Day, binging food and Netflix on the couch. The depression had not gone away but I was happy there had been a reprieve for at least one day.
THE FORECAST MATTERS
It rained off and on during Thanksgiving week. Unusual for California, this
was a reminder that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) could also play a role in my depressive episodes. I dealt with this a lot when I lived in the Midwest, where the Fall and Winter seasons are always gloomy. On the rare occasions when the weather is dreary in California, I can feel a difference in my mood.
The good news is that I know the weather here will brighten up sooner rather than later. I try to keep this in mind on the gloomy days. It gives me
something to look forward to.
STRESS WRAPPED IN A BOW
In the past, gift buying was one of my stressors during the holiday season. The pressure to spend money, combined with weeks of looking for what I thought was the perfect gift, would agitate me to no end. Then there was the concern about whether the gift would be liked/appreciated. This is no longer a worry for me. I do not give gifts. I ask that people do not give me gifts. If someone insists on giving me a gift, which oddly does happen, I give it to another person or to a charity.
THE GIFT OF SELF-CARE
For the purpose of self-care, I stopped celebrating the holidays a few years
ago. My family is small and spread throughout the country. I am the only one in California now, so this is not something that is difficult for me to give up. Apart from this past Thanksgiving, not celebrating has made surviving the holidays easier. Unfortunately, a little over one week has gone by and I am not fully over my Thanksgiving depressive episode.
For the Christmas season, I plan to eat healthy, go for a short hike,
practice yoga/meditation, maybe get a massage, write, and continue to practice gratitude. If I can achieve these things, they will be the gifts of self-care I use to get through the remaining holidays.
My positive affirmation: I am optimistic.