Overcoming Holiday Depression

If you ask most people, "What is the happiest time
of the year?" many would immediately respond, "The
Holidays," that time of year from Thanksgiving through
Christmas and New Year's. In fact, the phrase, "Happy
Holidays," found frequently on Christmas cards and
seen and heard as part of media advertising around the
Christmas season, reflects the commonly-held notion
that the holidays are happy.
Years of experience at The Rice Lewis Clinic have
demonstrated to us that, for many people, the holidays
are among the most depressing of times. As one frantic
housewife put it, "Why don't we just cancel the whole
holiday season! When I was a child, I looked forward to
this time of the year more than any other. How I dread
it now, though, because I almost always get
Perhaps you can relate to holiday depression or you
may have relatives or friends for whom the phrase,
"Happy Holidays," sounds almost like a cruel attempt at
humor. I f so, I want to offer you some insight into the
reasons for the holiday blues and some suggestions on
ways to overcome them so that this season you can
truly experience "happy holidays."
"Why do I get depressed every year around
Christmas?" Listed below are a number of significant
causes of holiday depression. 1) Idealized past
memories. Many people become depressed during the
holidays because their memories of past holiday
seasons include only the good things thathappened. 2)
Unfulfilled expectations 3) False identification -
Television shows and advertising, are often responsible
for producing false identification. Family stresses and
strains can be switched in the twinkling of an eye to
scenes of happy family members seen exchanging
presents, shopping, partying, and otherwise enjoying
holidays with one another in glorified ways that are
seldom really experienced. 4) Overexertion. One of the
factors most contributing to holiday depression is the
pace of living necessary to keep up with a frantic
holiday schedule. 5) Previous holiday losses. Holiday
depression often is related to previously experienced
losses and a heightened awareness of these. Failue to
grieve or work through those losses will cause us to
focus on the loss and the result is holiday depression. 6)
Added financial pressures. The financial pressure of the
season can wreak havoc with family budgets and
produce anxiety, depression, and family arguments. 7)
Feelings of loneliness.
As we have seen, many factors contribute to holiday
depression. Some are related to present pressures,
others to past events. However, no matter what may be
triggering your holiday depression, it is possible for you
to experience happy holidays. The following suggestions
and insights, if applied, can lead to a truly happy
holiday season.
1. Try to accurately and realistically asses your past
holiday experiences. However, don't look at them
as being worse than they were, and don't try to
rate them, either. Once we gain insight into our
tendency to idealize past holiday seasons, we are
less likely to be depressed during present or future
2. Bundle up all your expectations of the holidays
and give them to God. The essence of Christmas is
receiving a gift that we did not earn or deserve.
Rather than focusing on what we do not receive or
gain or what we cannot do in the holidays, we
should make those special season a time of
thanksgiving and gratitude for what we have
received and are still receiving.
3. Beware of buying the false images of television
programming and advertising.
4. Prioritize your holiday schedule. Ask yourself,
"what is important?" Don't be afraid to say no.
Take good care of yourself by getting proper rest,
food, and exercise.
5. Deal with holiday-related losses, remembering that
some losses cannot be helped. Those should be
committed to the Lord. If you have never allowed
yourself to truly grieve over the death of a loved
one or of a marriage that ended around the Christmas
season, it is important to complete the
grieving process.
6. Keep things in financial perspective. Develop a
reasonable plan and stick with it. Don't try to
prove your self worth or to buy other people's love
by giving extravagant gifts. Plan to avoid the
materialistic trap of the season.
7. Deal with loneliness directly. Remember that
everyone has three basic needs: 1) a proper self
perspective, 2) a close relationship with God, and
3) a close relationship with other people.
8. Beware of any medical causes of depression that
may be present in your life. Since each of us is
composed of body, mind, and spirit, we should
remember that all of these factors are related.
Sometimes depression is medical in origin. The
pressure of the holiday season can add to
medically induced depression and should be
9. During devotional times, look up, memorize, and
meditate on verses appropriate to the season.
If you already have trusted Christ, purpose to make
the holidays a time of personal, spiritual and emotional
growth. Develop a realistic self-appraisal based on your
position in Christ. Purpose to grow in your relationship
with God. Continue to grow in grace and knowledge of
the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, develop your relationships
with your spouse, children, parents, and close persona
friends this season. Allow yourself to go ahead and
enjoy the holidays, not with unrealistic expectations, but
from the reality of having already receiving the Gift that
Christmas is all about.