Coping with depression and anxiety at Christmas
It’s known as ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ and for many lucky people it is. But there are a lot of people for who Christmas conjures up negative emotions like anxiety and depression. This can be for many and varied reasons. I outline some of them below.
It does not help that it’s just so dark outside and that the days are short. There’s little or no chance to get any serotonin to boost vitamin D. This can bring the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), an acknowledged medical condition (but treatable).
Anxiety and depression brought on by expectation.
Some people just respond in a negative way to the constructed and some would say ‘false’ impression of Christmas as a perfect time. Bright lights on the High Street, couples arm-in-arm with bags showing off the names of expensive retailers, TV adverts telling us that you can never have enough, regardless of a rising personal debt mountain. Parents are especially susceptible to children who know exactly how to press the wrong button this time of year. The pressure not to disappoint them can have a negative affect.
Anxiety and depression brought on by loneliness.
For others, particularly the elderly, Christmas can be associated with loneliness. Thousands of people in the UK will not see another human being on 25 December. Whether it is through bereavement or various forms of social exclusion maintaining good mental health at Christmas time is just too far out of reach. We are fortunate living in Basingstoke that communities are a force for good, meaning the numbers on their own at Christmas are low. But even thinking about one person alone when we are having fun with loved ones makes the wine that harder to swallow.
Anxiety and depression brought on by recent bereavement.
Finally Christmas can be particularly difficult if it is the first time without a loved one. I’m thinking about those recently bereaved for whom this is their first Christmas without their partner. Memories of Christmases in years gone by may come flooding back. Even if family and friends are there providing support and affection, they are no replacement for that person who was by your side for many years.
What can you do if any of this rings true?
For many people I meet, understanding their mental health and taking the first step to help is the hardest step. Many people may decide to visit their GP in the first instance. Beyond that, the options are several. For some, medication can help, for others mental health counselling, or a combination of both.
What I would say is that no one should suffer the lonely torture of mental ill health, and that reaching out for help is actually a sign of real strength. This is true at any time of year, not just Christmas. At Harmony we work in a completely non judgemental capacity. Our sole interest is to provide you with constructive tools to improve your mental health.
Some people are after some short term help to build ‘resilience’ at this time, to make coping with Christmas bearable – and that’s OK too.
If you have any concerns for a yourself, a friend or relative make an appointment for a GP visit. You can also speak to a counsellor like me. You can call, or complete the box opposite.