By Wendy Rice, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist
Are you just not in the holly jolly spirit this December?
If so, or if you know of someone who needs a bit of support, you’ve come to the right blog. We are here to help!
If you are down about the season, it can be helpful to write down or at least really think about the things that are bothering you. It is often best to do it in a 2-column type format so that you can “respond” to each negative thought with something more neutral, realistic, or even positive. This is part of what we do in cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Here is an example (totally made up, not from any of our clients):
So now, indulge me for a minute and think about how you would feel if you were having the thoughts on the left. Sad, tired, discouraged?
And, if you were able to respond to them with the thoughts on the right instead?
You might feel a bit more encouraged, energized and willing to take some action, right?
I hope so. It is amazing how your thoughts can influence your feelings and then play a role in how you choose to behave. If you can catch yourself and get moving in a more positive direction, you CAN fight off the holiday blues, even when it feels like that is not possible.
To help others, encourage them to tell you about what thoughts are getting them down. Then, challenge them to tell you how they know that what they believe is really true.
Maybe reality is a bit different than what they think. Encourage them to find a more realistic way to talk back to that negativity and then ask them if they would like you to follow up with them. Taking action is one of the best antidotes for depression.
And, while the loss of a loved one can never really be presented in a positive light, you can help someone facing that challenge during the holidays simply by validating their feelings and letting them know that it’s ok to be sad, hurt, angry, etc. This “permission” may be all they need to let go of guilt and be ok with their feelings and the holidays.
Spending time with other people and just being social is very helpful too; being alone too much is not ideal. Simply knowing someone cares about them can be extremely helpful. Encourage them to get out of the house, to help others or to do something that they typically enjoy, even if they have to “fake it til they make it.”
Meditation and exercise are two other great depression fighters, but getting started is often the hardest part so that first step is crucial and may require some help. Someone very dear to me once reminded me that I can do virtually anything for 5 minutes. So, start there!
Of course, if you or someone you love has been feeling very down for 2 weeks or more, or if they are making statements that cause you to worry that they may be suicidal, please get them medical attention immediately!
In closing, we wish you a wonderful December and look forward to an exciting new year of possibility and opportunity for you!