Cambrian: Opinion

10 ways to cope with depression during the holiday season

Dianne Brooke
Dianne Brooke

One thing you often hear about is increased depression around the holidays. This year has been a tough one for so many people I know.

Losing loved ones through death or divorce or whatever means has a strong bearing on how we carry ourselves through supposedly “joyous times.” It can be damned hard to smile let alone “ho, ho, ho.”

That is one aspect, but, another is change in other behaviors — giving up alcohol or specific food products to ensure good health during a traditional time of indulging or moving far away from loved ones. These can involve mourning as well.

Studies show it is not so much an increase in clinical depression rather than the phenomenon of “holiday blues.” There are a lot of books, articles and programs that address such a topic. I try to recall how it was when I lost my mom 20 years ago. I’ve been looking at a number of things to focus on, some I thought about back then and some I hadn’t.

Ten suggestions

In a nutshell from the Mayo Clinic website (

▪  Acknowledge your feelings. It is OK to cry. You can’t be happy just because you’re presumably expected to be.

▪  Reach out. Seek support from community or religious groups. Volunteering takes you outside yourself and helps lift your spirits.

▪  Be realistic. If you can’t continue a “time-honored” tradition, create new ones. Find new ways to celebrate with others.

▪  Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to your expectations. Chances are, they are feeling the stress of the holidays as well.

▪  Stick to a budget. When we try to overcompensate or please everybody, we dig ourselves into a hole … and it never really makes things better. anyway.

▪  Plan ahead. The more organized you are (yes, you can be!) the more stress you can scrape off your plate. Pick a specific day for shopping, baking, mailing, etc. If something comes up and that changes, don’t be hard on yourself. It happens!

▪  Learn to say “no.” I have several friends who’ve lost spouses, and they exercise this skill when they are not up to speaking of their lost ones for the umpteenth time. “No” means not taking on more work, putting oneself in situations where substances you are trying to avoid are present (I know, challenging) or just saying “no” to generous offers of such.

▪  Don’t abandon health habits. Overindulgence or giving in to temptation of something you know will have immediate ramifications adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before a holiday event/meal; get plenty of rest; try to keep getting some modicum of exercise.

▪  Take a breather. Regroup with at least 15 minutes of alone time: walk, meditate, get a massage, read a book, stare out the window … just stop.

▪  Seek professional help. Of course, there are times when it is just too overwhelming and your whole life comes to a standstill because of these emotions and urges that come up. As in any time of the year, it is OK to look into counseling. We all need someone sometimes, even regularly. If there is one gift to give yourself if you need it, it is help! This also goes for possible Seasonal Affective Disorder (problems dealing with the change in seasons).

In this time of hustling and bustling and wading through the throngs of folks and difficult memories or habits, our energies can get mightily muddled up.

That stop thing is so very valuable: breathe in slowly, breathe out even more slowly, find a blessing in that exact moment.

I send you all blessings in gratitude for reading this!

Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian. Visit her website at Email her at

Some other thoughts