Depression and the holidays

Published 4:49 pm Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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By Nathan Rice

I first wrote publicly about my battle with depression in 2018 when the Suffolk News-Herald published my story in a series of columns in which I shared some things I have learned along the way.

Later, I wrote about depression and grief as well as depression during COVID-19. I do not want to repeat those columns, but one more aspect of depression should be discussed. That is depression during the holidays.

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Depression around the holidays can hit a little differently than it does during the rest of the year. The twinkling lights, festive scenes and cheerful nature of the season have a way of highlighting the emotions within for those with depression, and it can exacerbate the battle that is faced. The general jolliness of the season has a way of reminding us that something is wrong, and feeling blue during a time that is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year” is not easy.

Depression can be difficult around the holidays, but it doesn’t have to ruin the season. Like the rest of the year, there is hope, and things can be done to battle depression.

The first step is to determine that depression will not keep you from participating in the holiday season. It’s easy to decline all party invitations, ignore holiday family traditions, and refuse to visit any holiday-themed places, but it’s seldom helpful. Isolation may seem like the best option, but it rarely helps alleviate feelings of depression and can even be harmful.

On the other hand, it’s also not wise to stay so busy throughout the holiday season that you never have time to rest or relax. Sometimes, staying busy pushes blue feelings to the side and keeps the mind busy enough to not focus on the battle that is faced, but doing too much can lead to trouble. Adding too much to a calendar can exhaust the body and mind, leading to a struggle when it all becomes too much. Rest is important for those who battle depression, and it shouldn’t be ignored.

It’s important to participate in holiday activities and have the time needed to rest. Doing too much and not doing anything at all are both dangerous.

Another strategy is to determine where you allow your mind to focus. When depression looms, it will take up every thought of the day if it’s allowed to do so. There are many opportunities to volunteer or assist those in need during the holiday season. Consider things such as getting a few names from an Angel Tree and purchasing items to help or work with local charities or organizations that help others. The goal is not simply to distract from depression. Doing things for others can help our minds focus on positive things rather than the negative.

Lastly, it is important to remember that it is OK to get help if needed. There is no shame in reaching out to a friend, family member, pastor, licensed counselor or therapist. Reaching out for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’re willing to do what it takes to help yourself overcome a battle you’re facing.

Depression during the holidays isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to destroy the season. You can have a good holiday season even as you battle depression.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at