Do You Have Depression Wrapped Under Your Tree?
December can be a time of giving, celebration, and the coming together of family and friends, right? For some, it is also a time of depression. At the end of December, do you find yourself looking around your living room at the scraps of wrapping paper and discarded bows and thinking, “Guess that’s over. Now what?”
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Know Thyself
- Look What Santa Left in My Stocking–Chaos!
- Spread the Love
- Preventing a Blue Christmas or a Ho-Hum Hanukkah
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Recognizing What it is
According to the American Psychiatric Association:
Seasonal affective disorder* is a form of depression also known as SAD, seasonal depression or winter depression. In the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this disorder is identified as a type of depression – Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern.psychiatry.org
There are many people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is usually experienced during the Winter months in places where the weather is typically colder. People are staying inside more, the sun isn’t as bright, and there are less signs of life outside. For those prone to depression, these aspects of Winter can exacerbate the feelings of loss and hopelessness. For those who celebrate holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, they can get a quick “pick-me-up,” but after these celebrations are over, there is an almost immediate feeling of loss. There are things you can do, however, to help assuage these negative emotions.
The first step in being able to prevent unwanted emotions is recognizing their presence. Most people who are prone to depression are aware that they experience it, but they don’t always know how it starts. Preparing yourself beforehand and getting a head start will help greatly.
First of all, recognize that an emotional high (associated with a holiday celebration, for instance) will not last forever and will inevitably be followed by a drop in elevated mood. This is normal for anyone.The problem for someone who suffers from depression is that the variance in emotion is much greater and will drop to an unhealthy level. The question is, how do you prevent that from happening?
Look What Santa Left in My Stocking–Chaos!
If you are a part of a married or extended family, the holiday season is hectic. In my own family growing up, we opened presents on Christmas morning, went to my grandparents’ house to celebrate and open gifts with them, and then went to my great aunt and uncle’s house for a Christmas dinner later that day. Why do we try to cram everything into one day? Because it’s Christmas and you have to celebrate it on Christmas Day, right? No, you don’t.
Everyone can choose when to celebrate anything they want. Yes, I know there are traditions and many people insist on adhering to certain ones quite strictly, but everyone has a choice to make: Is it more important to follow tradition or to improve your mental health?
Spread the Love
Instead of trying to stuff everything into one day like a Thanksgiving turkey, spread it out a bit. If your mother insists that it’s “just not the same on any other day,” let her have her day and you celebrate on another day, maybe even after the new year has begun. Did I hear a *gasp*? Well, why not? The kids are still out of school, the tree or menorah can stay up a little longer. Don’t worry about Mrs. Kravitz across the street, peering out her window and tsk-ing in judgment. It’s your menorah; you can take it down whenever you want!
I wouldn’t recommend leaving Santa and his reindeer out on the lawn until the 4th of July, but until the end of January? That doesn’t seem so bad. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are a little more spread out, but Christmas is just one day a year. Are we reallly going to create all that hype for just one day? The point is, no one can make you celebrate on a certain day and spreading out the merriment can help with the transition out of the holidays.
Preventing a Blue Christmas or a Ho-Hum Hanukkah
Here are some suggestions for other activities:
- New Year’s Eve – Of course, the first major holiday after Hannukkuh, Kwanzaa and Christmas is New Year’s Eve. Go to a party, plan your own, put a hat on your dog and watch the ball drop on television.
- White Elephant – You know you’re going to receive a gift that just… isn’t you. Maybe you don’t like it, maybe it just doesn’t fit quite right. Plan a Post-Holiday White Elephant party. Wrap up that newly-acquired ceramic hippopotamus cookie jar and do a gift exchange. Just be careful with this one–make sure whomever you invite is not the giver of the gift you’re giving away!
- Chinese New Year – In 2023, the Chinese New Year falls on January 22nd and, incidentally, is the year of the Rabbit. So, hop to a party and even celebrate its culmination with the Lantern Festival on February 5th.
- If you live in a place that has decent amounts of snowfall, invite the neighborhood to join together for a snowman-building contest. Maybe the winner gets the opportunity to go to the other houses and knock down the other ones–with their permission, of course (sounds fun to me!).
- Pick a day and binge-read all of my other blog posts. Doesn’t THAT sound like fun?! Hahaha!
I’m sure there are many other activities in which you can participate during the post-holiday season. The point is to extend the celebrations and create for yourself things to anticipate that you will enjoy. In fact, I would like readers to suggest some activities in the comment section.
Depression doesn’t have to take over your life. Tell Winter she’s a b!$©# and she’s not going to ruin your mood! Then, take those empty stockings off the fireplace, put them on your feet and go out in the snow to have some fun!
*This article is my own personal advice and is not meant to be taken in place of a mental health professional.
Copyright © 2022 Brandon Ellrich
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