Depression in December

December hits a little different when you’re depressed, doesn’t it? 

It’s a dash to the finish line where you’re also trying to prioritize the now, soak up the moments, and make the most of presents and presence in the present. While that’s more than enough for anyone to be feeling the weight of depression this December, it’s also not the only factor that’s playing on your mind or your energy. Let’s take a look together at what else could be contributing to these feelings, and how you can get through them without betraying yourself.

Why do I feel more depressed in December?

This time of year, we are all prone to letting our self-care fall to the wayside in an effort to get everything else done. With busy schedules and an emotional tank running on fumes, you can throw a dart at a list of reasons and probably hit one that applies to your life. However, darts and a vague sense of overwhelm aren’t going to validate what you’re experiencing or help you understand why. For that reason, our Awakened Path clinical team has put together some tips to help you weather these final months of the year.

In today’s blog, we’ll look past the pressure of perfection, the social media stigma and the increasingly busy schedules in the dark of this December to figure out what else may be contributing to the intensity of depression symptoms. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder

With the change of the clocks, a shadow often lingers that isn’t related to that afternoon sunset. Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs in up to three percent of the population. For those who experience SAD in the winter (which is about 90% of sufferers, according to research), that often coincides quite neatly with the holiday season. When the winter grey sets in, moods can change to match. 

Holiday Stress

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? It really can be! But just because you’re looking forward to cozy winter mornings, snow falls and coca with your favorite people, that doesn’t mean that it’s not also stressful. The holiday season brings with it a stress of its own in so many ways. Money can be tight as you plan gatherings, prepare meals, deck the halls and embrace the spirit of giving. Alongside that, anxiety may rise about coordinating schedules as you try not to forget any event or occasion you’ve committed to. 

From preparing gifts to soaking up the presence of those around you, there are a lot of asks unique to the holidays that wear on your energy. These end-of-year tasks may drain you, leaving symptoms of depression in their wake.

COVID Concerns

The pandemic is lingering. Even though this holiday season is looking a little more like years past, it’s still not back to normal by any margin. You may be feeling the uncertainty of how to handle yourself or the weight of obligation and fear returning are just a bit too much, it’s understandable. 

You are grappling with the known as much as the unknown and, in some ways, grieving what will never be again. At the same time, you may be questioning concerns about the virus itself or just the contention surrounding it. Perhaps you’re trying to stay healthy or just looking to avoid another round of the political blame game that’s become associated with pandemic control measures, these things certainly darken the tone of December togetherness. 

What will help? 

You may feel that, with so many of these things being unavoidable, there’s just not much you can do except grin and bear it. That’s not the case! Perhaps the work you’ve got ahead of yourself won’t ask for more energy. Instead, let’s focus on what you can let go of to feel festive, authentic, and still get everything done. 

Resist the Temptation of Tabula Rasa 

If you’ve got a goal you’d like to work toward or a change you hope to make, don’t wait until the calendar gives you permission to do so. Tabula Rasa, or the concept of a blank slate, might in theory make those changes feel more possible, but it can actually contribute to some discomfort. Unmet resolutions may contribute to feelings of hopelessness and failure. 

Instead of attaching your hopes to the timeline resolutions imply, consider starting now—even if you just take small steps toward preparing for what you’re looking toward. You can still get the New Year excitement, but there’s no pre-action anxiety or calendar deadlines to wait for. 

Give yourself grace 

In all you do moving toward this holiday season, give yourself the space for grace. Building in caveats for adjustment in your plans helps you regain some power over the things that make you feel powerless. 

From setting attainable expectations to carving out time to recharge, your own comfort should be a key factor in planning your days this season. If things need to shift because you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, that’s not a failure, it’s recalibration. Adjust your expectations of yourself so that there is room for patience as much as there is for responsive compassion to the depression symptoms you can’t predict.

Tis the season…for support 

You do not have an obligation to bear depression in December (or any other time) on your own. There is support available, and it does not matter if you know exactly what you need or you’d just rather not be alone while you figure it out. 

The pressure to be happy, feel grateful, and acknowledge the hope of a blank slate may feel like you have to invalidate your own reality to exist within what’s expected of you this time of year. But you don’t. You do not owe any season the gravity of what you’re experiencing and there is nothing wrong with you if you’re struggling to lean into the seasonal cheer. 

Therapy for Depression at Awakened Path

Whether you are looking for a new path or just someone to hold the light for you as you make your way along a familiar one, there are options available to you. More than therapy is available to you in this time of endings and new beginnings.

Consider the tools you have, the hope you hold, and the strength you bear to move through whatever’s next. Then, when you’re ready, reach out and let us fortify those things so that this December and beyond, you feel ready to confront your depression no matter what.

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