Christmas May be a Time of Depression

Reasons Why Christmas May be a Time of Depression, and How to Cope
Dec. 12th, 2011

For most of us, Christmas is the most joyous time of the year. It is a time of meeting with family and friends, a time of receiving gifts, and a time of getting a well deserved break from the hectic pace of the work-world. However, for many, Christmas is a dreaded time of the year; they look forward to it with the same enthusiasm with which a person looks forward to a dental appointment. How could this be? What could make Christmas such a difficult time for many? This article will look at five reasons that are behind the Christmas blues and suggest ways to cope with the stresses of the season.

1. Christmas serves as a reminder of the loss of loved ones Because Christmas is a time when family members come together, it is also a time when the absence of a family member due to death is most conspicuous: there is the empty seat at the Christmas dinner table and one less set of gifts under the Christmas tree. In cases where a person has not properly grieved the death of a loved one, Christmas can evoke very strong feelings of loss and regret; feelings which can lead to depression. Coping strategy: Contrary to common belief, it is emotionally healthy to keep the memory of departed loved ones alive. Instead of suppressing the memory, make part of your Christmas celebration about recalling pleasant memories of the deceased loved ones. If you are experiencing acute grief one year after your loved one’s death, it is necessary to seek professional help.

2. Christmas is the time when financial problems are exacerbated Christmas brings with it the expectation of buying gifts for others, the need to decorate one’s surroundings, and the need to entertain. For those having financial difficulties, the expectations of Christmas make the financial strains even more burdensome. One research suggests that 33% of people estimate it will take at least six months to pay off the debt they accrue at Christmas. The feelings that spending is out of control and the contemplation of the future consequences of over spending can be a source of stress which may lead to depression. Coping strategy: Make a budget of what you can afford to spend and stick to that budget. True friends will understand if you cannot get them the usual expensive gift. If you are ruminating over the good old days, it may be helpful to remind yourself that there are good things in your life that money cannot buy. Make a list of all the things you can be thankful for during this Christmas season.

3. Christmas is a time when people are placed in stressful social gatherings While getting together with others at Christmas can be much fun, for many it is a dreaded time when they must spend time with people who are a source of stress in their lives: this is the story of wives who have to entertain their dreaded in-laws; this is the story of daughters or sons who have to come home to over controlling and excessively critical parents; this is the story of divorced parents who are invited to their adult children’s Christmas dinner. Some of my clients report feelings of anxiety from early in the fall as they think of the approaching Christmas season and the prospect of meeting with their least favourite relative. Coping Strategy: Where as it may not be possible to avoid these gatherings, it is possible to change your mindset about how you see yourself and how you are going to be affected by others. For example, prepare yourself in advance for the critical comment and visualize yourself handling it smoothly and being unaffected by the remark.

4. Christmas is a time when people reflect on failures in their lives. While self-reflection is generally a good thing, those who have the tendency to be negative, can become excessively self-critical at Christmas. There are at least two reasons for this: firstly, the New Year looms large on the horizon and self- reflection can easily become about life slipping away without accomplishments and a reminder that last year’s goals have not been accomplished. The second reason has to do with the fact that, at Christmas, many people who have been hiding behind the busyness of work throughout the year, suddenly find themselves with time to sit and take stock of their lives. For these people who have suppressed their emotions by over involvement at work, Christmas can be a time when they are flooded with emotions that they have not given themselves the time to feel. The twin demons of “What If” and “Should Have” can wreak havoc in the minds of many at Christmas as they dwell on the failures of the past. Coping strategy: If you are experiencing these negative ruminations about your life, it is good to talk with someone who may be able to help you to view things more objectively and in a more balanced way. If this is not possible, challenge yourself to look at the positive side; try to develop a more balanced way of looking at things. For example, you may have failed to accomplish some things, but there may be other accomplishments you can be proud of; you may not be successful from a financial point of view, but you may have been successful in raising healthy, well adjusted children. Challenge yourself to see the other side of the coin.

5. Christmas is a time when people become tired The celebrations of Christmas bring with it disturbed sleep patterns for many. This happens for a variety of reasons including staying up late making Christmas preparations, talking with relatives, and partying with friends. Whatever the reason, lack of sleep makes us more susceptible to feelings of depression. As our bodies become tired, our minds are more prone to view issues in ways that tend to make us depressed. Coping strategy: As you partake in the festivities of the Christmas season pay attention to self-care, take time to rest. Remember to pace yourself; you do not have to accept every invitation and you do not have to stay until the end of events you do attend. This article has looked at issues in a very general way and is in no way a replacement for professional advice. If you are experiencing feelings of depression it is best that you get in touch with a trained mental health professional.

 

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About Michael Hart

Michael Hart is a highly qualified psychotherapist whose training and experience allow him to use the respected Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) designation of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. As Director of Elim Counselling Services, Michael not only offers counselling to clients, but leads Kingdom Life Workshops and hosts a counselling radio show, Life Transformations. Michael is a dynamic presenter and a gifted communicator who presents serious topics in a way that is easily understood and very entertaining. His academic writings and research have earned him two St. Peter's Awards from St. Paul University in Ottawa for excellence in the area of Christian Spirituality. Michael is mentioned on the Christian Counselling Network as a Christian Counsellor having the qualifications and training in both theology and counselling and as such is recognized as being a Christian Counsellor who not only goes by the name but is truly qualified to offer professional Christian Counselling.

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