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Christmas, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Unless the thoughts going through your mind include…
- “How can I be happy over Christmas?”
- “How do I avoid Christmas blues?”
- “How do I avoid a depression relapse over Christmas?”
While Christmas can be magical it can also be stressful.
There is so much pressure for everything to be perfect, to get on with family members who you might fundamentally have nothing in common with all while not getting enough sleep and eating and drinking some very unhealthy stuff to excess.
It’s kind of a perfect storm for mental health problems to rear their ugly head, and as someone who’s been through multiple Christmases with depression, I want to tell you about my best coping strategies on how to survive Christmas with depression.
Because Christmas is magical and it can be wonderful for you too… with a few tweaks.
9 Things I Stopped Doing That Helped Me Beat Depression
46 Self-Love Journal Prompts [Plus FREE Printable PDF Self-Love Journal]
The 6 Things That Helped Cure My Depression
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What can we do to ease depression during the holidays?
1 – What about Christmas caused issues for you in the past?
The first thing to think about is what triggers affected you at previous holidays.
Of course, if this is your first year with mental health issues then this tip isn’t so applicable, but you might be able to recognize things that upset you in the past and could do more damage this year.
By figuring out what were the root triggers of your depression relapse in previous years you can negate some of the effects by avoiding those triggers this year.
For example, maybe it was too much alcohol, not enough sleep, not enough time alone or your Great Uncle Will’s sexist views (every family has one…)
By identifying what things act as your triggers you can try and avoid them or at least be prepared.
2 – Remember Christmas is really only 72 hours long…
With all the prep that goes into Christmas, it can be hard to remember that Christmas isn’t actually a month-long holiday. But in reality, actual Christmas only lasts a few days.
Just having this knowledge in your arsenal can be great to fall back on if you start to get overwhelmed with *everything* going on.
Most of us can get through anything when we know when and how soon it’s ending.
3 – Simplify your Christmas
Pressure seems to be the main issue when it comes to Christmas, particularly the pressure for everything to be perfect.
And this pressure can really cause some issues if you throw mental health problems into the mix as well because I don’t know about you but that’s a sure recipe for relapse for me!
So the easy answer is to simplify your Christmas, trust me it works a charm.
4 – Make your own Christmas traditions
Don’t be afraid to change up your current Christmas traditions if they don’t serve you and cause you pain…
For some people, their families are not understanding or supportive of their mental health and so you might realize that you need to spend Christmas away from your family even if the tradition has always been to spend Christmas with them.
This is totally okay. You aren’t rejecting them, just making a new Christmas tradition that serves you better. And if their reaction is negative take this as a sign they will miss you and nothing more.
Of course, your new Christmas traditions don’t have to be such a big change. Maybe you just recognize that alcohol doesn’t help your mental health and so you might forgo the eggnog and mulled wine this year.
Or that being back in your childhood church has nothing but bad memories for you so you miss the midnight mass held there and worship in your own way at home.
Think about your triggers and what new traditions you could implement so you don’t have to partake in the activities that hurt you.
5 – Don’t be afraid to say no
The funny thing about saying no is the first few times you say it everyone tries to convince you to do the thing anyway, but after a few nos from you that you stick to everyone actually respects your no.
Much like the magic of Christmas when you say no to things that don’t serve you.
Just because everyone else enjoys them and wants to do them doesn’t mean you have to.
Just say no, politely. You’re allowed to not want to do something.
6 – Accept Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect
We’ve spoken about the pressure at Christmas time for everything to be perfect, so I won’t labor this point.
But basically, if you accept that things just won’t be perfect at Christmas, that things will go wrong, the turkey might burn, Uncle Will will probably say something offensive and there is a high chance your little cousin will vomit up all the sweets he ate earlier… all over your bed.
When you accept these things are likely to happen the pressure comes off you, which makes it far easier to actually enjoy the good bits.
And to not feel bad if you need to take five to get your head together.
Oh, and top tip, maybe turn off the TV and Instagram. All the Christmas television and IG posts seem to portray some very perfect families and Christmases, you don’t need that in your life.
7 – Be wary of excessive alcohol, unhealthy food and staying up late
As I spoke about in my overcoming depression post neglecting the big six can have a huge impact on your mental health.
I personally find that not getting enough sleep is an absolute killer for my happiness. I know others find lots of alcohol or not so healthy food is their poison.
Now obviously I’m not saying completely avoid the Winter Pimms and don’t touch the Yule log, I’m not an animal!
Just be aware that if you only survive on Winter Pimms, Yule log and three hours of sleep each night your mental health might not be in tip-top form.
Self-care for surviving Christmas with depression
Okay, now we’ve gone over the main tips to help you survive Christmas and try to avoid a depression relapse, let’s talk about self-care you can do over the holidays.
Of course, if you can you should continue all the normal self-care you do for your mental health, but here are a few I think are both easy to do and make a big difference.
1 – Get outside and exercise
I’m not saying you should run a marathon…
(Geez, no thanks.)
But going outside for a gentle walk at Christmas time is both magical and good for your mental health.
Not only is time outside and some exercise good for happiness; it also gives you a break from the manic that is Christmas going on inside and a break from any company who perhaps say things a touch offensive (looking at you Uncle Will…)
Plus, seeing all the decorations, the frost on the trees, maybe even some snow depending on where you are in the world. Those sights can put the Christmas spirits back in you pretty darn fast if you’re started to lose the will to live.
It’s also a pretty easy thing to do without raising any eyebrows from less understanding family members.
2 – Practice gratitude
Even if you have to do it with gritted teeth.
When we have depression it’s so easy to get stuck in our head ruminating on the more negative aspects of our lives.
I challenge you, whenever you notice your brain start to do that, start listing things off you’re grateful for.
You don’t have to write anything down, just think about things you are thankful for. They don’t have to be big just really focus in on that list.
This isn’t the easiest thing to do I will admit, but it can help you from going into a full-on depressive meltdown in front of Grandma.
And you can do it anywhere without anyone knowing.
Just keep listing off the things you’re grateful for until you feel like the worst of the storm has passed.
3 – Carve out some alone time
If you have a big family Christmas sometimes you just need to carve out some alone time no matter how much you love your fam.
If you feel uncomfortable taking yourself off somewhere to chill then make up an excuse.
You could say that you’ve started meditating and you need someone quiet to do your ten minutes each day (no one needs to know you’re playing Sudoku on your phone) or that you need to check your work emails as an important client will be contacting you over the Christmas period.
Sometimes that alone time is just what you need to be ready for another round of unwoke charades.
4 – Try and keep as much of your normal routines as possible
I did talk about this earlier so I will keep it short, but if you can keep as close to your normal routines and habits as much as possible, particularly bedtime, what you eat and how much you drink, I find that that goes a seriously long way to keeping my mental health stable.
I mean don’t go crazy that you have to be in bed by X time and that you must start the day off with a poached egg, but just in general, if you can stick to your normal routines your body and mind will thank you for it because routines equal safety.
And safety equals a happy brain.
Hopefully, these tips and ideas have helped you answer the question of how do you beat holiday stress
Because, realistically, it’s normally the pressure we put on ourselves to make Christmas perfect that causes holiday stress.
And it’s that stress and overwhelm that then triggers depression and mental health issues to pop in a take over the festive fun.
So stop stressing over Christmas, easier said than done of course, but it doesn’t need to be perfect and it’s just a few days of the year.
Simplify your plans and always take the easy road (for example, need to bring a dish to someone’s house, buy it, don’t make it…)
And remember, you deserve to be happy at Christmas too, so make sure you’re doing things you enjoy that suit your mental health. It’s not your responsibility to fit in with everyone else’s plans.
Don’t Forget to grab your free daily self-care routine I used to beat depression for good!
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