For most people, Christmas is a time of celebration, catching up with family and friends and generally being merry. It’s important to remember this is not the case for everyone. There are many people who experience painful memories at this time of year. The recent loss of a loved one, being away from those who are close and reminders of family break-ups and relationship distress can all add up to a sad time which some people struggle with. For them, it’s not the season to be merry and cheerful. This time of year can be difficult and no one’s Christmas is like we see in the movies. If this time of year is a struggle for you, there are a few things you can do to help yourself feel a little better.
- Accept that it’s a tough time. Don’t pretend otherwise. Acknowledge how you feel and remind yourself that you probably have a good reason to feel that way, especially if you miss loved ones who are no longer there or are not with the people you’re close to. When you understand these losses can contribute to feeling a little low, it can help you to let those feelings go.
- Allow any feelings of grief you may have. Because Christmas is a time of grief for people who have lost loved ones, deep memories may be triggered and all the emotions attached to. Christmas makes the bond, memories and emotions much stronger. The memory of that person is still alive and, while it may fade over time, you’re likely to miss that person at some level. Recognise this as normal and appreciate the meaning it has for you by doing something you know was important to the person you’re missing. When we embrace our grief in a constructive and meaningful way, it helps to release the feelings of being down and sad.
- Do something for someone else. Christmas provides many opportunities to help others. This could be volunteering to help others less fortunate to talking to neighbours you don’t know well. Random acts of kindness benefit givers just as much as receivers.
- Call an old friend. This may be someone who’s a positive influence in your life, who you know would be delighted to hear from you. You don’t need a reason. Just say, “This time of year got me thinking of you… How are you?” This can be a great way to lift your mood.
- Don’t compare. All around the world, people have different circumstances. Some people are sick, others are feuding with family members, while there are people without enough food. Allow this to give you some perspective and don’t judge your circumstances by the idealised families in movies, or the seemingly perfect family a friend or workmate tells you about. Your situation is your reality, so decide what would help you.
- Focus on what’s going right. Remind yourself of any good things that happened during the year. No matter how troubled your year has been, there are usually some positives you can also focus on. Allow yourself the time to dwell on these and not get bogged down with the thoughts making you feel unhappy.
- When all else fails, watch a funny movie (not a Christmas movie or anything with a sentimental ending). Nothing disrupts negative mental images like something that is light and funny.
- Finally, take the time to look after yourself.
- Resist the urge to binge on alcohol and food.
- Walk away from that extra drink or second helping of pudding.
- Walk, or run, if that’s what you’re into. The more stress you’re under, the less time you feel like you have to go for a walk.
- Exercise has been shown to improve mood and lift one’s feelings of well-being.
While Christmas can be a sad time and you find yourself missing people, you can recognize what’s happening within yourself, acknowledge this and move on. It’s not easy to do, but it is important to do something to change yourself.
This material is produced by Kerryn Ashford-Hatherly and Michael Tunnecliffe from Ashcliffe Psychology – Phone: 0455 455 855. While written in good faith and to acceptable professional standards, this material is not a substitute for direct professional advice, which should be sought regarding all matters of concern or risk to an individual.
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