Friday, November 22, 2013

Surviving The Holidays With Depression/Anxiety

With Thanksgiving less than one week away, most people are starting to feel a little bit of stress, anxiety, excitement, and did I mention stress?  The holidays have the ability to bring out the best in us, or the worst in us.  Your relatives know exactly what buttons to push, what side dish to bring, and have an opinion on how you cooked the turkey or decorated the tree.  Don't ya just love'em?!

But for some of us who struggle daily with depression or anxiety, the holidays can really start to make your palms sweat, and you feel an overwhelming need to stay in bed, all day. 

So what's one to do if they find themselves falling deeper and deeper into feeling down, or not holly and jolly?  Here are a few tips I have come up with to help survive the holidays, and please know I am coming at you as someone who struggles with this.  I do have a background in counseling {BA and MA in Clinical Counseling}, but these tips are from my heart, not my textbook. 

1. Get connected or reconnected with Church...Most people find God around the holidays, or are willing to "try" formal religion.  I know some people get frustrated with church, they think most Christians are hypocritical, judgmental, mean, and cliquish, and yes, you would be right.  I think that, too.  But those people are a small percent of the Church, unfortunately they are the first ones you see when you walk in.  But get past those people and find the ones who really care, and want to love on you.

I am not saying get back in church so you can pray your depression away.  I am saying there is something to having a true, genuine relationship with Christ.  God loves you unconditionally, he loves you on the good days, on the bad days, and on the really ugly days.  God created you, and he didn't make a mistake.  I feel like I can not express this tip enough, you just have to trust me.  Step out of your comfort zone and give it a try. 

2. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time...I doubt someone who severely struggles with depression or anxiety volunteered to have all the family over for the holiday.  But maybe you did, or maybe you got volunteered to host.  Regardless if you are having everyone over or are traveling, be prepared.  Make a list of what you need to bake, make, or pack.  Start now, and crank it out.  We are leaving Tuesday afternoon to go out of state, and I am making my list today of everything we need to take with us.  This way you feel like you are in control and not spiraling out of control at the last minute.  If you are baking/cooking, make your grocery list, go get all the items you need before Wednesday night at 8pm, and start a schedule of when you are going to prepare the food.  Try and get your family to bring as much as they can, so maybe you are left with just the turkey and drinks.  This plan may not work for this year, but bank it for next year.

3. Schedule a break day after the holiday...Once your family comes and goes, take a break, and don't feel guilty.  I love my family, and I love being around them, but they wear me out, too.  So I know when we get back, I am taking a break.  I will push my to-do list off so I can re-charge.  You are better for it, and so is your family.  Make sure your spouse/kids know you are taking this break.

4. Serve others...Sometimes when I feel my lowest I need to go serve others.  Doing something nice for someone else makes you feel good.  It does, go ahead and admit it, it's okay.  Plus, when you serve someone else you are taking your focus off yourself and your issues, and you are putting that other person first.  It can be something as simple as baking cookies for a neighbor, or you go serve a meal at a city mission.  Get out and help someone.

5. Get moving...At times I feel the worst about myself when I have not exercised in a while.  I start to hear the voices saying "you are fat, you are out of shape, you are a terrible example to your kids, you are going to eat that?" and the list goes on.  It's hard to get motivated and get moving, trust me, I totally get this.  But after I go for a walk, or a run, or play with my kids, I feel so much better.  We all know when you are active your brain releases those happy feelings that float through your body, so there are multiple benefits of moving around.  I also find if I am active in the morning, I make better choices throughout the day.  Again, I am learning and doing this right along with you.  I ran on Monday for the first time in 3 weeks.  Then I did nothing all week until this morning.  I am still learning the art of discipline.

6. Have fun...Truthfully, this may be the hardest one for a person dealing with depression/anxiety.  The idea of planning something, things going perfectly, the kids having a good time, the money, the "you name it" is super stressful.  This tip could cause anyone a slight panic attack.  Keep it simple...let me repeat...SIMPLE.  Play a game, color a picture, drive around and look at Christmas lights, just do something out of the ordinary and have fun doing it!

These tips are not a cure all, trust me, they just put a dent into dealing with depression/anxiety.  And just because I wrote these down, does not mean I have mastered them, I need to practice them just as much as you do. 

If you are reading this because someone you love struggles with depression/anxiety, please know it's not you, it's us.  This a demon we wrestle with daily.  Some days are easier and we seem fine or happy, other days we know we are just plain ugly, so please don't try and fix us, support us. 

And on a serious note, if you are struggling beyond getting out of bed for more than 2-3 days in a row, or if life seems to be caving in on you and you can't escape, please, I urge to go talk to your doctor or a counselor.  There is absolutely no shame in that, and there is no shame or guilt in needing medicine to help you get back on track, or to stay on track.

The holidays are stressful, we know that, but I pray some of these tips encourage you, and you can not only survive the holidays, but thrive through them.



1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is so encouraging to me Kate. Thanks so much for sharing!