The second I flipped open the phone, she shouted, “We’re engaged!” Years earlier, when I had just started working with teens, I met Emily and John. They started dating their senior year of high school. It continued through college and into their twenties. Their engagement came just a few days before Christmas, and I was expecting it. I actually thought it was long overdue because they were such a perfect match. I had just started a long drive to my mom’s house for Christmas when I got the call. While I was thrilled for them, I felt a wave of sadness come over me. I had always dreamed of being married and having a family. All of my college friends were married a year or two after graduation. Meanwhile, I was in my late twenties and known as “the single guy.” At this point, I wasn’t dating anyone, and marriage felt far from me. Although I was with my family, which I love, I felt lonely that Christmas. There’s something about the holidays that can make a person feel even lonelier. That’s when holiday depression can set in.
The holidays are here. How are you feeling? Are you excited about it, or do you have a feeling of dread, hopelessness, loneliness, or perhaps even numbness? Holiday depression can strike for a lot of reasons and in a lot of ways. Here are 4 ways to deal with holiday depression.
1. See a therapist/counselor.
Years ago, my wife was depressed. Some days, it was tough for her to get out of bed. For months, I lived in the day-to-day tension of trying to figure out how to make life better for her. I scrambled to see if our insurance would cover counseling because it wasn’t something I felt we could afford. While I was on the phone with my insurance provider, the person mistakenly thought I was the one seeking counseling. She asked, “So, how are you feeling today?” I started to tell her and realized all of the tension I’d been carrying. Sometimes we feel stuck or have lost perspective and need the insight of a professional to be released. So, if you are experiencing holiday depression, see a counselor. Call your insurance provider. You might have access to free counseling over the phone. Just the act of talking to someone may help.
2. Breathe, exercise, sleep, and drink water.
One of the best things we can do for depression is to take care of our physical well-being. Unfortunately, during the holidays, we tend to do a lot of unhealthy eating and drinking, we lounge around more, and we sleep less. All of that can enable our depression to get worse. Try creating some healthy habits. You don’t have to start working out for an hour a day. Start with things you can achieve easily. Close your eyes and spend five minutes breathing in silence. Pray a little. Do 10 push-ups each day. Drink five glasses of water. Get up early and go to bed at a reasonable hour without screens in your room so you get plenty of rest. Don’t think of these as solutions, but merely helpers. Focus on consistency rather than the amounts.Being thankful shifts our mindset and brings contentment.
3. Make a list of things you’re grateful for.
We can often lose sight of joy because we take simple gifts for granted. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” God has provided for you. He’s given you food, clothing, and people who love you. Focus on those things. Make a list of all of the people and things in your life to be grateful for. It may take some time to get the list started, but once you get a couple of things down, more will come to your mind. Keep coming back to that list and add to it as you think of them. Being thankful shifts our mindset and brings contentment.
4. Focus on giving.
Sometimes, focusing on our challenges just takes us further and further into depression. There are times when we need to stop thinking about ourselves and our plight and focus on others. Direct your thoughts and energy to serving and giving. It may give you a sense of purpose and joy to help someone in need. You may even get something in return. As Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
5. Remember your value and your hope.
Don’t ever forget that you are eternally valuable and there is hope. As Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” It may not feel like God is close, but He is, and when He thinks about you, He rejoices. I know that’s easily said. It’s one thing to know it and/or believe it, but it’s another thing to feel it. Just make sure you remember your worth and don’t lose hope. This won’t last forever.
Sound off: How do you handle holiday depression?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How are you feeling about the holidays?”