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Christmas depression and stress

Christmas for most people is a fun time of year, filled with parties, celebrations, and social gatherings with family and friends. For many people however, it is a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety.

What causes Christmas blues?

Sadness is a truly personal feeling. What makes one person feel sad may not affect another person. Typical sources of sadness over Christmas include:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Over-commercialisation
  • Financial stress
  • The inability to be with one's family and friends
  • Reminders of loss and bereavement

Balancing the demands of shopping, parties, family obligations, and house guests may contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed and increased tension. People who do not view themselves as depressed may develop stress responses, such as:

Others may experience sadness after New Year's Day. This can result from built-up expectations and disappointments from the previous year, coupled with stress and fatigue.

Tips for coping with Christmas stress and depression

Just like an advent calendar, here are 25 tips for coping with Christmas stress and depression:

1. Keep your expectations modest

Don’t get hung up on what the Christmas holidays are supposed to be like and how you’re supposed to feel. If you’re comparing your festivities to some abstract greeting card ideal, they’ll always come up short. So don’t worry about festive spirit and take it as it comes.

2. Do something different

This year, does the prospect of the usual routine fill you with Christmas dread rather than joy? If so, don’t surrender to it. Try something different. Have Christmas dinner at a restaurant. Spend Boxing Day at the cinema, or get your family to agree to donate the money to a charity instead of exchanging presents.

3. Lean on your support system

If you’ve been depressed, you need a network of close friends and family to turn to when things get tough. During Christmas, take time to get together with your support network regularly -- or at least keep in touch by phone to keep yourself centred.

4. Don’t assume the worst

Don’t start the Christmas season anticipating disaster. If you try to take the festivities as they come and limit your expectations -- both good and bad -- you may enjoy them more.

5. Forget the unimportant stuff

Don’t run yourself ragged just to live up to Christmas tradition. So what if you don’t get the lights on the roof this year? So what if you don’t get the special Christmas mugs down from the loft? Give yourself a break. Worrying about such trivial stuff will not add to your festive spirit.

6. Volunteer

You may feel stressed and booked up already, but consider taking time to help people who have less than you. Try volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping someone to do their shopping.

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