“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”! Beautiful lights sparkle on trees and houses, people are hugging and spending time with their loved ones, gifts are being exchanged, hot chocolate being drunk, hands being held, and songs being sung. But you don’t feel it. Nothing feels all that merry or happy or bright, in fact it all feels really really hard. And as if the sadness you are feeling is not bad enough, on top of that you have that feeling that you should be happy. You’re not alone in this.
When I was a little girl I counted down the days until Christmas starting on December 26th. Christmas carols were my favorite songs any month of any year and Christmas day was always everything I had hoped for and more. When I got older, I started to notice that feeling disappear a little every year. A couple years ago, I noticed my depression typically gets even worse in the winter months, but how could that be? It should be the most wonderful time of the year! I think this is a common thing for many people out there. The winter months are hard, it gets dark so early and it is cold so we are stuck inside with ourselves and our thoughts. If you are anything like me, that is not a fun place to be.
Something that really gets me this time of year is that feeling of utter and extreme loneliness. My depression is fueled by me feeling like I am alone, unwanted, unseen and will be alone like this forever. This is hard because even when I am with someone, I still feel this way, and that is why it is a disease. In my opinion, the feeling of being alone in a group of people who love you is the worst possible feeling in the world. I see a lot of girls struggle with this season of feeling like we should be in a relationship; holding hands and ice skating, sharing hot coco, kissing under the mistletoe, getting that perfect gift for him, whatever it is, and that only enhances the feeling of being alone. But most of our lives are not like Love Actually and that does not mean we are alone or unloved.
We live in a world where it is frowned upon to struggle, to feel sadness, or to sit in any discomfort. This pressure to be happy is enhanced especially throughout the holiday seasons. But you have to know that the sadness you feel right now is not a failure on your part. You are not doing anything wrong. While it is uncomfortable to sit in this feeling of depression, you can not punish yourself for feeling your feelings, because that only makes it worse. I personally think it is possible to acknowledge your sadness and still enjoy this season! Here are a few tips to do so:
- Meet up with Friends
If you go home for the holidays, planning to meet up with old friends from home is a perfect way to feel that warm and cozy feeling of love and connection with someone else. I love seeing old friends when I visit home because no matter how much we change, they always are there to come back to and that feels pretty magical to me.
If you stay where you are for the holidays, plan something festive with your friends in the area you’re in. Maybe go to a Christmas tree lighting or go ice skating, just trying something fun that you wouldn’t do any other time of year can put you in a more cheerful mood.
If you are in a period of your life where you maybe just went through a breakup or don’t have a good group of friends, that is okay too. You deserve to feel just as much holiday cheer as anyone else. Take yourself shopping and buy yourself a nice gift. Head to a coffee shop and buy yourself a hot coco. But most of all, please know that this is temporary. The holidays come every year and who knows, next year you could be madly in love or living with your best friend and having the time of your life. Do not lose hope.
Whether it is material gifts or the gift of your time, this season is about giving. I personally get so much joy from getting someone I love the perfect gift and seeing their face when they open it. But I also think it is especially important to give to those who don’t have much. Some ways to give this holiday season include:
- Volunteer (homeless shelter, soup kitchen, animal shelter, church, nursing home, etc.)
- Donate (food drives, clothes, money)
- Reach out to someone you know is struggling
- Support an ethical business
- Thank someone who is important to you
- Send cards to children in the hospital (I did this last year and I got the sweetest notes in return. The whole experience brought me so much joy)
- Show people in your life how much you appreciate them
3. Appreciate what you have
I know how hard this is, especially when you struggle with depression and the feeling that you have and deserve nothing, but that is not reality. It is so easy this time of year to want. Want that car you’ve been eyeing all year. Want that perfect new years kiss. Want to be cheerful and merry. But what about just appreciating? Appreciate the fact that your dog loves you more than anything. Appreciate the fact that you have warm clothes to wear in the snow. Appreciate the fact that your friends want to spend time with you, even when you are sad. Appreciate your family, even if it’s messed up. I think true joy comes from gratitude and being content with what you have in the moment.
4. GET FESTIVE
I don’t care how sad you are, there is no way eating a little gingerbread man while sipping on hot chocolate by the fire and decorating your tree with Christmas music on in the background doesn’t make you smile even a little bit. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, maybe you get that little sparkle of joy from lighting a special candle. Whatever it is, just try it. Even if you have to make yourself, a little smile goes a long way.
Festive things you can try doing:
- Spin a dreidel
- Decorate your tree
- Sit by a fireplace
- Drink hot chocolate
- Make cookies
- Look at lights on houses
- Sing your favorite christmas songs
- Watch movies (Love Actually, Serendipity, Elf, Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch)
- Try Secret Santa with Friends
- Throw a New Years Party
- Make fun intentions for the New Year
- Go shopping for gifts
- Make cards
- Go ice skating
- Light your Menora
- Eat cookies
5. Know This Feeling Will Pass
If none of these tips help you get through this season a little easier, just know that seasons (like feelings) are only temporary. You will get through it. If this winter is particularly hard for you, just know it will not last forever. The season will end soon and maybe next season will be the best season of your life. Next time this year, you could be in a totally different place, living the life you always dreamed of, you just have to have hope.