Food for Thought: Depression and Christmas

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While the holiday season brings joy and celebration for some, for others it is a time of isolation and an increase in feelings of depression and negative thoughts.

Of all the holidays, Christmas is the most likely time of the year to experience depression. The suicide rate is higher during December than any other month. The development of suicidal thoughts are more prevalent at this time and the suicide rate increases in places with little sunshine and long severs winters like Montana.

Christmas depression can be triggered by a multitude of things such as: losses, failures, death in the family, divorce, economic difficulties, loneliness and family conflicts.

This is a period of frenzied activity, a time to juggle work, an increase in social obligations, shopping, wrapping, entertaining, and staying on a budget. It can be more depressing for families that are unemployed, have very little cash or are ill.

For some this is a time of reflection as the year draws to an end. A time when one looks back and reviews the losses they have incurred such as the loss of a loved one through death, divorce, separation or loss of a job or financial loss.

Ways To Survive Christmas Depression:

1. Donít Swallow The Hype. Christmas is not about gift giving, glitter or happy families. Keep it simple.

2. Get Practical About Christmas Gifts. If money is a problem, do homemade gifts or a gift exchange and draw names in your family. Cut down your own tree. Make decorations from popcorn or old beads, toys or candy canes. Be creative.

3. Be active. Exercise, go for walks, snowshoe etc.

4. Ask For Help. If you are cooking dinner for family have each one bring something.

5. Manage Family Stress. Accept the fact things will not be perfect. Some family members will not get along. Donít put yourself in the middle. The turkey may be dry, the cat may knock down the tree etc. Donít set yourself up by expecting too much.

6. Limit Alcohol. Alcohol can lower inhibitions and encourage family members to express words and behaviors that they would not normally do.

7. Personal Evaluation. It might be wise to follow some businesses example of waiting for the summer months to do your personal inventory when you are not so stressed out or depressed.

8. Volunteer. If you are alone or far away from family, join a local volunteer group that brings holiday cheer to others. You will help yourself as well as others.

9. Reach Out. If you are depressed call someone. Surround yourself with positive people who make you feel hopeful and give you encouragement.

10. Get Help. If you are really struggling emotionally and know it is more than a mild case of the holiday blues, call a counselor. The onset of holiday depression doesnít mean you require long term counseling or medication.

It may mean you have to learn to set better boundaries, or let go of the past or learn some coping skills. Nothing you are experiencing is abnormal and no one is going to judge you if you ask for help.

- Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls.

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