First…I feel the need to preface this by saying this was not written with the idea of generating pity or alarm. In fact, it’s not a topic I would normally blog about. 🙂 But I know this is not an uncommon problem, and my hope in saying it once is that something here will help someone, somewhere.
Over the past decade, I have spent more than a few holiday seasons in intense unhappiness or depression. It’s a social atmosphere that emphasizes love, family, and friendships, and when you’ve got struggles in one or multiple of those areas (or something entirely different), the surrounding sights and traditions can make you feel like you’re miles away. You’re not ungrateful for what you have, but you feel bad and, on top of everything else, guilty for feeling bad.
There is no cure for this, because it is a separate problem, just exacerbated by contrast with the season. There are ways, however, to cope.
Go through the Motions Anyway
Your gut instinct is to tune out from everything…avoid going out, ignore invitations, skip decorating. And if you truly believe this will help, maybe it’s the right thing to do.
In my experience, though, going through the motions of celebration can be, if not healing, at least semi-restorative. You’re not going to feel well, but you’ll probably feel better. With that, avoid the commercialism and focus on the meaningful traditions, such as giving acts of kindness or worshipping through music. Don’t leave yourself out more than your depression already does.
Be Extra Kind
Be especially kind to yourself and others during this time. It is exactly what your emotions don’t want you to do, and so the best act of rebellion against negativity.
I don’t send many Christmas cards, but I try to send a few to people who have made a difference to me over the past year, whether that was a distant friend, a college mentor, or a caring boss. What you write inside doesn’t have to be complicated; keep it simple and genuine.
Also, remember self-care—doing things you enjoy and things that are good for you. You have to love yourself before you can love others. Take care of yourself.
Get Outside More
Some afternoons after work, I just want to lie in bed and drown my sorrows in hot chocolate and YouTube. Sometimes that’s the ideal thing to do. But not usually.
I don’t have any fanciful notions that going outside actually makes you feel better (it often doesn’t), but it’s inarguably healthier than staying inside glued to a screen. A friend of mine once said that being out in cold weather made her feel more alive. I can see that, too.
Find reasons to go outside and disconnect from your comfort zone.
Live Out Advent
The weeks leading up to Christmas hold a dual meaning: the memory of Christ’s birth as a vulnerable child and the expectation of Christ’s return as the soldier called Faithful and True. None of us were there the first time, but we can each consider ourselves part of the sequel, so that Advent becomes something we not only observe but participate in.
What this looks like in actions depends on your situation. It might be anything from a fast of some kind to a change of scene. In any case, pray without ceasing…that is, keep up your conversation with God. You might have to fake a smile to every other human soul, but you don’t have to fake it with Him. Tell Him what you’re going through; write it out if you need to. Remember He came for the broken and the brokenhearted.