Christmas is an indulgent and merry time for many. It is an opportunity to gather round with our loved ones in the comfort of the family home. Yet for many, it is a time which makes us feel more depressed than any other time of the year.
Throughout most of the year, the relatives that we don’t get along with (i.e. brothers / sisters), we don’t have to maintain contact with. But then Christmas happens, we may feel that we have to suppress our resentment towards other family members to placate parental wishes for civil harmony over the yuletide season. Add alcohol into the equation, and a civil yet strained atmosphere can erupt into emotional carnage.
When the media inundates viewers with images of what a perfect Christmas looks like (this perfection is usually driven by affluence), it is inevitable that unrealistic comparisons are made, and we may feel that we can’t measure up. We may feel that we are not as well off as our colleagues / friends, and therefore, we can’t provide any meaningful Christmases for our children without getting into debt.
Loss and Loneliness
We may also compare our current situation to Christmases long ago. (for example, Christmas was great when I was a child / When I had money / When my grandparents were alive). So for many, Christmas is a reminder of the people and things that we have lost, more than a celebration of what we have.
Christmas is often marketed as a time for togetherness, yet many people are lonely, and this is further exacerbated over the yuletide season, when this comparison is drawn.
As Christmas earmarks the end of the year, we may reflect on our new year’s resolutions from the start of the year, and feel underwhelmed when we realise that many of those weren’t fulfilled or adhered to for long. Sometimes, feelings of disappointment and failure persist when reflecting on this, and you may feel inclined to reprimand yourself and feel your self-esteem plummet.
Ways to minimise Christmas blues
Be kind to yourself
It’s important to recognise your own worth and see that you are worth indulging. You may enjoy going to see a funny or heart-warming movie, or having a pyjama and duvet day with a box of chocolates and your other favourite foods. Although doing these things may not get to the root cause of your feelings of depression, prioritising yourself by bringing some leisure into your life will help you to feel more joy, and this will address one of our most basic human needs.
Meditation has been proven to help ease stress and depression. Guided meditations often begins by prompting you to pay attention to your breathing, and this can enable you to leave any stressful trains of thought for a while. Many guided meditations prompt you to visualise peaceful places where there is no stress and negativity and creating this mindset for yourself can make you feel a lot more peaceful and positive.
Challenge your own comparisons
It’s easy for our own self-assessments to be measured against the framework of how society measures success. But it may be worth investigating why you may take this on as your own belief. Quite often, when we witness those close to us measure their worth against the values imposed on them by society, the pressure to conform to these values ourselves become reinforced. It may be time to listen to your own internal voice, the voice that may be buried under many layers of conditions.
Make time to process grief
Christmas is a lonely time for those of us who have lost loved ones, and the grief process is a unique and personal journey to all. It is especially raw during the first Christmas without the loved one. For some, time may be needed in solitude to privately feel and process the pain. Others may want to share this grief with family members, and this can be cathartic.
It may be that your feelings are intense and you are struggling to cope, and you feel that you would like to explore your feelings with a trusted counsellor, who can help you through the stages of grief in a non-judgmental environment.
If the stresses of Christmas become too much, because it illuminates problems in your life, then it may be time to seek a counsellor who can help you to gain clarity on your thoughts and feelings.