When I think about the holidays, the first things that come to mind are: joy, generosity, and being surrounded by loved ones.
But the truth is, that’s not how my holiday actually goes. And while this time of year is one that I remember enjoying when I was a child, it’s an occasion I would rather skip now. That’s because, when I reflect further, different feelings and emotions start to appear:
While I love to give gifts to loved ones, the thought of not picking out the perfect one makes me want to burst into tears. So I always go overboard. And when I log on to my social media handles and see couples going on holiday outings, I realize how alone I actually feel.
It’s as if any prior months of progress don’t matter and I’m just an inch away from reverting back to my deepest lows. My anxiety and depression go to new highs during the holidays. And as I try to hold myself together, I can’t control how irritable I become to others. Trying to hold it in on a regular day is difficult enough, let alone on days when you feel especially overwhelmed. I begin to question my progress, my medications, my counselors, and how appreciated I am by my “loved ones.”
These are the times where I want to be left alone and have no interaction with anybody, just to unwind.
My strategies for coping
The last two holiday seasons were by far the hardest I’ve had to deal with. I was going through a breakup, while simultaneously hiding my battle with anxiety and depression. And to top it off, I wasn’t feeling very connected to my friends or family.
Thankfully, this year I am changing the way I deal with my anxiety, panic, and depression. How? By remembering that, even though during the holidays you’re expected to give back and give joy to others, you simply cannot disregard your own mental health.
After talking to my counselor many times about self-care tricks, I’m learning to manage my well-being by not striving for perfection over the holidays. These are some of the tricks that are helping to keep me on track!
1. Focus less on details
My anxiety can feel beyond overwhelming, and this is partly because I need everything to be picture-perfect. When I say everything, I really mean every single detail. I think that if the details aren’t just right, the whole holiday will go wrong. This year I am going to focus less on the details, and more on the memories that everyone takes away from the holiday.
So I have written down a plan to help relieve some of that anxiety. I am making cookies with my favorite person, which in my case is my mom. We will be making this a fun occasion with a capital F. Having someone distract me from decorating the cookies will allow me to enjoy the activity instead of dread it!
2. Avoid social media
Dealing with depression over the holidays is awful. I feel like it’s better for me to stay inside and isolate myself, rather than impose on anyone’s holiday plans. But when I do this, I end up on all of my favorite social media sites and fall into a worsened mental state. This year, I took a vow to focus more on my own holiday, instead of comparing it to all the people I follow on social media.
By not comparing my holiday to others, I won’t feel the constant pressure to make my holiday details perfect. The way I’m planning on doing this is by staying out of the social media hole. I’m deleting the apps from my phone, so I’m only able to access them through my home computer. This will give me more time to enjoy the company of those around me, and help me steer clear of deep lows.
3. Take some ‘me’ time
I am very grateful to be surrounded by loved ones during the holidays. Doing things that are a little more relaxing is a great way to reduce anxiety and depression. Having said that, it is so important to take time for yourself. So I’m making it a huge priority this year to relax and unwind by focusing on my mental health.
I plan on working on things that make me feel happy and relaxed. Painting, photography, reading, writing, and walking are just some of the things I will be doing during my downtime, away from everybody. I think this is essential, because during the holidays it’s busy! Whether it’s gift shopping, holiday traditions, or people visiting from out of town, I find myself constantly surrounded by people. While that is a wonderful thing, it’s also important to do some relaxing by yourself.
I think it’s not only crucial to notice when you need time alone, but also to communicate to others that you need some downtime to clear your mind of the holiday stress.
This year I’m devoted to making the holidays feel special again. To actually feel the “magic” of the holidays that everyone talks about, instead of falling into my major lows of depression and anxiety. These tips will help allow me to enjoy the people around me, and enjoy my own company as well. Here’s to taking control!
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, reach out to your doctor for support and treatment options. There are numerous forms of support available to you. Check out our mental health resources page for more help.
Brittany Ann is a professional interior stylist and lifestyle mental health advocate. Originally from a small city in Saskatchewan, she moved to Calgary where she realized her passion was design. So, she started a blog, The Beauty & Design, which eventually led to a career in freelance writing and interior styling. Connect with her on her Instagram or blog.