Food for Thought: The Desperation Point, depression and Christmas

| December 9, 2020 12:00 AM

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. This year because of the coronavirus these feelings are exacerbated even more.

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 severe winters like Montana.

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

Again, exacerbated this year even more by the coronavirus. Christmas is usually a period of frenzied activity, a time to juggle work, an increase in social obligations, shopping, wrapping, entertaining and staying on a budget.

This year is even more depressing for many families because of unemployment and very little available cash. 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, illness or separation or loss of a job or financial loss.

Ways To Survive Christmas Depression

  1. Don’t 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 or candy canes. Be creative.
  3. Take Care Of Yourself. Eat right. Take vitamin C, D and zinc.
  4. Be Active. Exercise, meditate, go for walks, snowshoe, etc.
  5. Ask For Help. If you are cooking dinner for family have each one bring or make something.
  6. Manage Family Stress. Accept the fact that things will not be perfect. Some family members will not get along. Don’t put yourself in the middle. The turkey may be dry, the cat may knock down the tree, etc. Don’t set yourself up by expecting too much.
  7. Limit Alcohol. Alcohol can lower inhibitions and encourage family members to express words and behaviors that they would not normally do.
  8. Keep In Touch. If you are alone or far away from your family try a zoom call and have dinner with them on zoom. Fix yourself a special dinner or watch a favorite movie. If possible you might want to join a local volunteer group that brings holiday cheer to others. Remember many people are experiencing emotional and physical isolation due to the corona virus so make an effort to be extra kind.
  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 you know it is more than a mild case of the holiday blues, call a counselor. The onset of holiday depression doesn’t 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.

Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.