Coping with depression during the festive season
Depression and its symptoms can often reach a peak for sufferers during the festive season. There is such emphasis on perfection and extravagance at this time of year that it can amplify depression symptoms, especially if people feel they cannot live up to those standards.
Last winter (Nov-Dec 2015) the Mind Charity trust conducted a study into the pressures of Christmas for those with mental health issues. The results founds that more than half of participants (52 per cent) have considered harming themselves at Christmas, while nearly half (45 per cent) have considered taking their own life.
Even those without a diagnosed mental illness can still suffer and find this time of the year significantly challenging. There is the increased financial pressure because of the extra expense with gifts/decorations/food and increased work stress dealing with end of year deadlines and staff absence. In addition there can be social anxiety due to the additional gatherings that you may feel obliged to attend.
So what can be done to help?
- Make sure you continue to exercise regularly and stay as active as possible. Even though it’s likely to be cold outside, wrap up well and enjoy the great outdoors with a walk amongst nature or even do something physical indoors. Regular exercise can help ease depression by the release of feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, endorphin's and endocannabinoids).
- Make plans and keep a note of what needs to be done and mentally reward the achievements once accomplished. It may be helpful to scale the list with how important each job is, that way when seeing it written down you may acknowledge some of things are not as important to get done and you may think.
- Space out any shopping trips and stick to a list if possible which should help to avoid spending too much. How about suggesting a Secret Santa gift giving practice with family and friends to relive the pressure of finding gifts for many and the cost.
- If you are worried about potential arguments with family members or friends at social gatherings, try and have a word about your concerns in advance. If this is not possible try to have an ‘ally’ on the day, who can support you if you need to walk out of the room for a breather. If you do have a lot of social engagements to attend have a think whether your stay can be kept short. This time of year is definitely about spending time with loved ones but not at the expense of making you feel unwell due to the pressure. They are your close friends and family and they will understand your struggles. It may be time to be honest with those close to you about your health if they are unaware that you are suffering. Do not suffer alone.
- Make time for yourself amongst everything else going on. Whether it is that walk outdoors to escape for a moment, or treat yourself to a small gift. Do not feel guilty about spending money on yourself. Christmas is a time for generosity and you too should be included in that generosity.
- That generosity can be the gift of time too allowing yourself some space for relaxation. Meditation and self-hypnosis and amazing tools to help relieve stress and recoup from a busy day. Here are some easy mediation tips:
Sit or lie comfortably and close your eyes.
Make no effort to control your breathe; simply breath naturally.
Focus your attention on the breath and how your body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and stomach. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.
- Minimise or eliminate alcohol completely as it is a known depressant and can enhance the effects of depression. Unlike the symptoms of depression alcohol consumption is something you can be in control of and you need to decide whether the pleasure of sharing a drink with friends outweighs the effects it could have. If you do not want to cut out alcohol completely then be mindful of what you're having and allow yourself to understand and deal with the effects it may have on your depression.
- Try to stay 'present' as much as you can. When feelings of depression, anxiety and stress compound themselves it is hard not to dwell on the past and fear for the future. By trying to stay focused on the hear and now, the present, you will realise it is a much kinder place to be. By being present you can appreciate the smaller things that go into a day and practice gratitude for the successes and gifts you see around you.
It is with much affection that I wish everyone reading this a healthy and harmonious Christmas.
If you feel you may benefit from one-to-one therapy then please feel free to get in Contact with us at Kent Therapy, using the tab above.
All the very best,
Samantha Friend D. HYP
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