The holiday season is in full swing. Christmas tree lots are popping up on every corner, each neighbor has more lights on their house than the next, and it only seems fitting to curl up next to the fire with eggnog and hot chocolate. There’s a lot to be thankful for and joyful about during the holidays. For many with depression though, the holly and jolly can feel more like pain and suffering.
Deep sorrow and loneliness can be polarizing during this otherwise celebratory time. I don’t know what you’re facing this holiday season. If you’re hurting from the loss of a loved one or their absence during the holidays, know that God’s heart hurts with you. If you’re suffering from what seems like never-ending mental illness, know that you are not alone. If you find yourself in the grips of depression this holiday season, I pray that these tips will bring you comfort.
Come up with an action plan
Please remember that reaching out for help doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re not alone. Isolation is what we naturally gravitate to in the midst of depression. Unfortunately, isolation is the one thing that harms us the most. It can be overwhelming being with tons of family, joyful “cheer” and groups of people who just don’t understand your depression. You need a “wing man” who does understand. Get with three people who you know you can reach out to when things are rough, and tell them in advance that this season tends to be a lot for you to handle.
Of course you don’t need a helicopter friend, hovering over and watching your every move. Just someone checking in to make sure you’re not isolating yourself too much, and to genuinely understand when you hide away. If you find yourself unable to function, or experiencing any level of suicidal thinking, it’s time to seek professional help beyond your “wing men.”
Challenge yourself to get out of the house
I know, I know, easier said than done. But this principle is extremely beneficial. It can be easy, and maybe even routine, to stay stuck in your own bubble of isolation and sorrow. Breaking out of that bubble, on the other hand, is extremely difficult. Make a list of places or things you want to see during the holiday season. It can be a new coffee shop in town, or Christmas lights at the zoo. Whatever the case, make a list, and hold yourself to it. Get out of the house and experience whatever Jesus might have in store for you out of your comfort zone.
Avoid the Bubbly
Alcohol flows freely this time of year. Stay away from it. Simply put, alcohol is a depressant, and the very last thing you need.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Don’t beat yourself up over feeling empty rather than full of joy during this season. You’re feeling empty because that’s part of the illness. It’s not your fault, and you’re not the Grinch because of it. You simply can’t help it. And you’re not alone. Depression or not, there are people everywhere who struggle with getting in touch with the true meaning of the season. Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time, but for many, it’s full of sorrow and depression. You’re in good company, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
Suffering from depression and trying to “feel normal” during the holidays can be frustrating. Remember that your struggle is no secret to God. He knows what you’re going through, and He is with you—even during the times when it seems like He’s far away. Be intentional about taking care of yourself, and leaning on others for help.
Even if you struggle to find joy in the Christmas season, there IS joy to be found in the gift of Jesus Christ. If that’s the only place you find it, then you’re doing alright.