It’s important to recognize that you can be depressed during the holidays, even when others seem to be experiencing joy and excitement
With the Christmas season in full swing, TV and radio commercials are full of festive shopping offers, thoughtful gift ideas for your loved ones, and mouth-watering Christmas recipes that will tantalize your senses.
The festive season is also a time when many people take a break from work and the hustle and bustle of everyday life to travel to distant parts of the country and spend more time with family, relatives and friends.
READ: Stigma and discrimination drive SA’s boom in poor mental health cases
But this time of year can also be a difficult and lonely time for most South Africans struggling with anxiety and depression. The stress of social gatherings, financial pressures, and unrealistic expectations can exacerbate existing depressive symptoms.
By SA Depression and anxiety group (Sadag), suicides increase at this time of the year due to the isolation, sadness and increased stress of depressed people.
Tips for treating depression during the holidays
Clinical psychologist Dr. Khosi Jiyane spoke to City Press about tips that people suffering from depression and anxiety could follow to make the festive season more bearable and ultimately recover from their current situation.
Jiyane encourages families and friends during these December holidays to recognize the symptoms of depression, such as sudden changes in their loved one’s behavior and they express suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming themselves.
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While many people struggling with anxiety and depression during the holidays are often told to simply “get over it,” she said it was crucial to recognize that mental health issues were serious issues that required professional support and intervention.
In suicidal thoughts, they usually say something, but it starts with their own thoughts, and they usually verbalize it in one way or another. When this happens, the people to whom they express their suicidal thoughts are important in how they react.
“And then it can escalate from ideation to actual plans. It’s not just thinking about suicide, it’s making actual plans,” he added.
READ: How to take care of your mental health
Jiyane said the opposite can happen for some people struggling with depressive symptoms. She said that while some may talk to friends and loved ones about suicidal thoughts, others withdraw and isolate themselves during the holidays, and this is important to pay attention to.
On the one hand, they can express themselves, on the other hand, they can also withdraw. So you’re looking for a clear difference in character and behavior compared to how you usually know them to behave.
On a more personal level, Jiyane gave five tips for people suffering from depression this holiday season. She encourages them to seek professional help and to trust people who feel safe talking about their mental well-being.
When we talk about depression, it’s about the stress we experience. We have hope that this will pass. But when it reaches a point where they see no end in sight, they lose hope and they spiral into hopelessness, thinking there is no point in this.
Here are five tips for dealing with the holiday season blues:
- Recognize and accept your feelings: It’s important to recognize that you can be depressed during the holidays, even when others seem to be experiencing joy and excitement. Accepting feelings without judgment can help reduce self-criticism and promote self-compassion.
- Self-care comes first: Participate in activities that promote your general well-being, such as exercise, meditation or immersion in nature. Also, make sure you get enough sleep and follow a balanced diet to maintain your physical and mental health.
- Set realistic expectations: Understand that social gatherings and holiday parties can present challenges. Set realistic expectations for yourself and don’t feel compelled to attend every event.
- Tell us about your needs: Be open in your communication with family and friends about the challenges of your depression. Make it clear that you need some alone time or define certain activities that may seem overwhelming to you.
- Apply for support: If your depressive symptoms worsen, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapists and counselors are equipped to provide valuable support and effective coping strategies.
Remember that you are not alone in dealing with depression during the holiday season. If you need professional help, contact Sadag’s 24-hour toll-free suicide crisis helpline on 0800 567 567 or visit their website. www.sadag.org More information.
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