As everyone is cheerfully bustling about getting Elf on the Shelf staged and Christmas shopping completed or started this season, I am reveling in the feeling of actually wanting to put my tree up and decorate this year. This Christmas season already has been a vast contrast to last year, and not just because of Covid. You see, last year I suffered from the Christmas blues deeply as I drifted further into depression.
For many, Christmas is a time for joy, giving, and creating fond memories with loved ones. However, it can also be a stressful time that induces anxiety and a feeling of unworthiness for those who are battling silently with fragile mental stability. And oftentimes, that fragility is hidden so well that you’d never see it past the mask of a smile. As I remember my constant need to put on a cheerful face while around family and friends last year all the while feeling like I was floundering in sorrow makes me grateful for my current healthy state and the work I have put in to get here.
With the downward spiral 2020 has been, this year may be especially important in remembering to bestow kindness, the ultimate gift, to all who cross your path and look closely for the signs of those suffering in silence with holiday depression. For me, this looked like smiling and nodding in group conversation without actually contributing to the dialogue with my own thoughts since I was in my head much of the time. Additionally, I was not interested in participating in holiday gift games like the White Elephant even though I was present and “happy” to watch the event. Overall, I was present in the room with all the festivities going on around me but was not actively involved. Since much of the holidays are busy day in and day out or shared with large groups, it was easy to hide in plain sight.
All this being said, it is okay to not feel up to Christmas festivities with extended family or friends and to just work on getting your mental health better. Your family in your household and close friends will understand and want to see you genuinely happy. Just seeing my 18-month-old daughter open gifts and hearing her tiny squeals of delight truly warmed my heart in those brief moments last Christmas and was all I needed that season. Find joy in the small things and nurture that feeling within until it can spread outward from your heart to the rest of you. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to put into perspective of what is important to your mental wellbeing while also a wonderful tool for memory recall at a later date. A gratitude journal does not need to be full pages written out; a quick little blurb will do.
In the end, the Christmas blues or depression can be common. Knowing how to spot the signs through all the holiday craze and connect with the person suffering, even if just lending an ear, maybe more gift than you’d ever know. If you are struggling this holiday season, know you are not alone and do what you can without overextending yourself. Even if this Christmas may be blue, keep dreaming of that white Christmas. It will come.