By Kathy Hubbard
When you were deciding where and with whom you would spend Thanksgiving tomorrow, I bet you didn’t expect that stress and depression would be on the guest list. Maybe they are but, just because they were invited doesn’t mean they have to come.
“For many people, the holiday season is anything but happy,” an article published by St. Joseph Medical Center in Houston, Texas, said. “It can be a time filled with grief, loneliness, and stress. This year, those feelings of depression may be more prevalent due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“With the lack of family gatherings, events, or even eating out at a restaurant, it is easy to feel very isolated. That, coupled with the loss of loved ones or a job due to coronavirus, may drive people to unhealthy or harmful behaviors.”
The first thing to do is to recognize your feelings. It’s one thing to be a little blue once in a while; it’s another to feel discouraged, anxious, and irritable for weeks on end. Signs of depression include not being interested in things once pleasurable, overeating, feeling fatigued, guilty, worthless, and helpless. If at any time you have an inkling that you would rather die than live another day, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.
It’s normal to feel sadness and grief if someone close to you has died, or you’re unable to be with family and friends for the holidays. “It’s okay to take time to cry or express your feelings,” Mayo Clinic said. “You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.”
Mayo also says to be realistic. “The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails, or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.
“The holidays are a good time to set aside differences and to accept family members and friends as they are,” they said. “And, be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.”
It’s probably too late for me to advise you about tomorrow, but during the upcoming season, learn to say no. Learn not to overbook yourself. Learn to say, “Thanks for asking, but I just can’t do that right now.” And, stick to it. Instead, find a project that you can sink your teeth into; read a book or two for pleasure; get out of the house and take a walk, even if it’s just around your neighborhood.
“Spending just fifteen minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do,” Mayo said. “Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring inner calm.”
St Joseph Medical Center says that those suffering from seasonal depression shouldn’t fall into bad habits. “Keeping medical appointments, taking medications as prescribed, as well as exercising, eating right, and getting plenty of sleep are keys to staving off depression.”
They also warn against the temptation to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. They said that you couldn’t rely on substances to bring you feelings of peace and joy, and that’s so true.
“Be aware of how the information culture can produce undue stress, and adjust the time you spend reading news and social media as you see fit,” Mayo said.
If you can’t shake the feeling of melancholy, call your primary care provider. He or she can make suggestions for alleviating the sadness, perhaps prescribe medications or recommend that you make an appointment with Bonner General Behavioral Health at 208-265-1090.
Mayo says we shouldn’t let the holidays become something we dread. “Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown.”
Only you can make up your mind that you won’t bite off more than you can chew. That’s literally and figuratively good advice the day before Thanksgiving, no? Be well, be safe, be happy, and be thankful.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Advisory Council. She can be reached at email@example.com.