Depression is common this time of year. Beginning about now, on until spring, and especially at Christmas time, the Black Dog of depression rears its ugly head for many people, dragging them under for long spells. There are quite a few ways to fight holiday depression, including owning a dog or cat, and some things you might not know.
We fight holiday depression here at home. It’s actually a year round fight. Here are some of the ways we keep depression at bay, as well as tips which work for others. I’ll begin with our most successful tip.
- Talking – depression lives inside a person’s head and heart. It can be like a hamster wheel, turning so fast and hard that you feel you can’t stop it, but not really going anywhere. It can feel overwhelming. But all that stuff inside that threatens to suffocate? A lot of it can be dragged into the light of day by talking about it with someone you trust. A counselor, a spouse, a sibling, a best friend. Get it OUT. It’s a festering wound, becoming infected and threatening to kill you. We call it popping the bubbles – speaking each concern, worry, fear out loud either makes it part of someone else’s life (sharing the burden), or it dissipates in the light. Find someone you trust. Talk. Talk, talk, talk.
- Exercise – so often we hate to see this one. Especially when depressed. The last thing you want to do is move, right? I know you want to stay in bed. But for the sake of the people who love you, for the sake of your dog, for your sainted mother who wants you to be the best you you can be, get up. Get moving. Buy an odometer and challenge yourself. Set a small goal. How many steps can you take today? Tomorrow? Start small, but get moving.
- People – it’s difficult to stay depressed when you’re being social. I’m not talking about standing in the Metro station watching the crowds. I mean set and keep social appointments. Coffee or lunch with friends. An evening at a pottery place with a spouse or child. Go places with others and be present. BE PRESENT the best you can. And find someone who’ll hold you accountable. I find opportunities for the depressed people in my life and push them to go. They hate me, initially, but are grateful afterward.
- A Pet – there really is a lot to be said about having an animal which requires care, something to be responsible for that won’t talk back or throw a fit. An animal you can pet and hold and talk nonsense to. In fact, in the UK there are programs in nursing homes which utilize hens with the elderly and it’s working remarkably well.
- My last one – Give Yourself Permission to Fail. This is huge. So often depression seems to be a response to perceived failure. Failure is OKAY. You can’t succeed at everything in life. You aren’t perfect. You’re not. And that’s alright. It is. You can’t fix everything. You can’t make everything okay. You can’t make everyone happy all the time. AND THAT’S OKAY. Really.
I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m not a psychologist. This list wasn’t dredged up from the internets. This list comes from my home, my heart, my experience. Don’t do this by yourself. Don’t.
Let me add one thing, which has also helped us through holiday depression – change how you do the holidays. Change some of the traditions. If it’s being with extended family that triggers it, be with someone else this year. If you can’t be with someone else, invite someone along, an outsider, to the festivities. It’s amazing what small changes will do. My family is changing it all up this year and heading to the beach, just to do something different. And don’t underestimate bringing someone with you to the dinners and gatherings. A friend from work, a friend of the children’s, even a homeless person. Just shake things up. Dreading the familiar patterns is part of the cycle. Change the patterns, even if it’s just a wee bit.
Now! Go forth and do your best to enjoy the holidays! And drop me a line if you have questions or concerns. Like I said, I’m not a professional, but I do love you all and want the best for you. Hug your dog for me, will ya?
Until I write again …