By Jennifer Woolwine

10 Tips to Cope with Holiday Depression, Anxiety, Stress

Health + Wellness

baghdad to barnyard

November 23, 2020

This time of the year can be challenging for people that struggle with depression. When you think of the holidays, you picture a happy celebration with family and friends. However, for me, the holidays can be incredibly stressful, overwhelming, and emotional.

I need help staying motivated in the winter with darker mornings, less sunlight, and shorter days. I take pleasure in the winter months on the farm because farm projects take a back seat until Spring, and I have more time for myself. It gives me time to catch up on reading, writing, or working on a creative project. I only have a little time for all tasks during the Spring and Summer. I also enjoy planning for Spring, and hopefully, I will be expanding our garden area this year.

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Seasonal affective disorder

Depression often worsens during the wintertime because of a significant lack of Vitamin D and reduced sunlight. Many individuals who experience depression during the winter are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

We are stuck inside for most of the winter with shorter days, less sunlight, and cold weather. The change of the seasons brings about shorter days and less opportunity to be productive. Vitamin D and sunlight are critical to maintaining a balanced mood.

SAD can be managed with antidepressants, light therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

HOLIDAY DEPRESSION AND Leading up to the holidays

The past few weeks have been challenging for me as we get closer to the holidays. I wanted to speak candidly about my battles with depression and how I cope during the holiday season, and maybe it will help someone else feel the same way.

It is essential to understand that depression is an illness that cannot be overcome by willpower. It is also necessary to be supportive, listen, and treat others as you want to be treated.

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10 Tips to Cope with Holiday Depression, Anxiety & Stress

1.       Know your limits. Do not take on more than you can handle. In previous years, I struggled with this. All the hosting responsibilities would fall on me financially and emotionally. I had to arrange the food, entertainment, and gifts for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It became exhausting trying to please everyone, and I spent so much time trying to make the holidays perfect for my siblings and parents that I neglected myself and those closest to me.

2. Have realistic expectations. Every day we create expectations for how certain events will play out. Unfortunately, when we have unrealistically high expectations, we spend more time worrying about the moment instead of enjoying the moment that we have. Furthermore, when we expect something, we feel resentful when that expectation is not filled. If instead, we don’t expect anything, we feel grateful for what we receive.

3. Be honest about how you are feeling and share with a close friend or family member. It is okay to feel sad, especially with those who have recently lost a loved one and will be spending the Holidays without that special someone.

4. Celebrate the Holidays by doing something new. Traditions are lovely but families grow and change. Create new habits and rituals. You can do different things every year. With COVID-19, the holidays are going to be different. Find new ways to celebrate together. You can share photos through social media, skype, emails, etc.

5. Share the responsibilities- do not try to do everything yourself. This was always one I wrestled with as well. I always felt so much pressure from my family to make the holiday season perfect for everyone to the point that it became expected and was no longer enjoyable for my husband or me.

6.     Spend the Holidays with supportive family/friends. The holidays can be incredibly stressful for those living in a toxic family environment. It would help if you surrounded yourself with positive and uplifting friends in the family. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious, or other social events or communities. Look for online support groups, social media sites, or virtual events that may offer support and companionship.

7.       Help spread some Holiday cheer by volunteering.  It can be very uplifting and gratifying to help someone in need or less fortunate. Plus, you may meet a lifelong friendship with which you can create new traditions.

8.       Set boundaries and learn to say NO. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you resentful and overwhelmed. Friends will understand if you cannot participate in every project or activity.

9.       Self-Care- Make some time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy and take a break. Make sure you are eating good meals and getting plenty of rest. Even spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.

10.       Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may persistently be sad or anxious. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional if these feelings last for a while.

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SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year information service for individuals and families facing mental and substance use disorders.

The farm, my hubby, and the animals get me through the dark days. Having purpose and a routine has made a difference for me.

Starting this blog has been a creative outlet for me; it not only gets me out of my comfort zone but also gives me something to look forward to. The support I have received is fantastic, and I have made such lifelong friendships, and I look forward to meeting more along the way. I hope this post was helpful and if you need someone to talk to, please reach out. I would be more than willing to listen and be someone you can count on. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! XOXO


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Jen Woolwine       Author

Jen is a combat veteran and wife who is passionate about animal rescue, homesteading, and mental health advocacy. Jen's amazing journey of transitioning from military service to homesteading can be followed on her blog and social media platforms @baghdadtobarnyard.

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