While the holidays may bring joy, peace and merriment to many, for others this time of year only seems to make negative emotions worse. Seasonal depression is real, and there are many factors that contribute to why the holidays can make us feel pretty low. Sometimes this time resurrects feelings of deep sorrow and emptiness from the loss of a loved one. It could be that gray skies and a lack of sunlight have an effect on our psyche. For many who aren’t surrounded by loved ones, the season just seems to highlight how alone we really feel.
I don’t know all of what you may be facing this holiday season, but if you have found yourself in the grips of depression, I hope these five tips will prove helpful for you.
- Invest in light box therapy. Light boxes are essentially artificial lighting that is often used to help treat seasonal depression. A lack of sunlight during the winter can lower the amount of serotonin released in our brain, which is a natural chemical that helps with our mood balance. You can find out more on where and why to invest in a light box here.
- Take a good dose of vitamin D. For a reason similar to light box therapy, our mental health is tied to the rise and fall of sunlight more than we realize. It’s shown to be common that when seasonal depression is present, the levels of vitamin D in our body tend to be lower than usual. You can read more about the link between vitamin D and depression here.
- Have a plan in place. If you know that you’re susceptible to fall into lower moods than usual, specifically around the holiday season, then prepare yourself in advance. Have a list of activities you can turn to that you know lift your spirits, such as a favorite movie, a favorite playlist, a hobby or even a person you can rely on no matter what. Better yet, create a happy box—a package of your favorite goods to unleash on bad days. Here are some ideas to create your own happy box.
- Challenge yourself to get out of the house. This can be way easier said than done, but is extremely beneficial when applied. It’s easy to want to stay stuck in your own bubble of sorrow and it can be extremely difficult to get out. You’re essentially fighting yourself. My challenge to you is to note a couple of places you’d like to visit this season, and that can be as simple as a coffee shop in the area. Make a trip at least once a week to get out the house. Put on some clothes and go whether you feel like it or not. Soon you’ll find a shift of atmosphere can be a great deal of help.
- Be willing to talk about it. Remember that reaching out for help doesn’t mean you’re failing. It just means you’re not in this alone. Isolation tends to be the one thing we gravitate to most in the midst of depression, but is also the one thing harming us the most. In advance, start thinking of at least three people you can reach out to when times are tough. Let them know in advance that this is going to be a tough season for you and you’ll need their support and prayers. Find out if your faith community has a support group anywhere in their program and consider joining. I also recently launched an online Facebook support group for Christian mental health. If this is a recurring issue, or you find yourself stuck and not able to function or are experiencing any level of suicidal thinking, it’s time to start thinking about professional help. Dedicate yourself to not facing this season alone.
Sometimes the hardest part of seasonal depression is the frustration of wishing you felt “normal” like everyone else. I completely get it. But remember, this is no surprise to God. The struggle is a part of the story, and as you get through this, you will have the understanding and wisdom to help others, too. Your testimony and your journey are meant to be unique to you for a purpose. Have faith because this too shall pass.