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It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

I love this time of year. No matter what holiday you celebrate you have to admit it is a magical time. The majority of people are being nice to one another, even though people seem rushed they still try to take time to acknowledge and give to others.

It is a wonderful thing to see. But, what I have always wondered is why people save up their kindness for 1 month out of the year. Why can't we be in that giving spirit year round? Why can't we be kind to each other all the time? Why do we need the sparkling lights and holiday music to remind us to love one another?

I don't know the answer to that. I've been trying to figure it out for years. Share your thoughts.

But  this time of year can also be a tough time for some. Depression increases, suicide rates soar and every December there seems to be at least one parent in our city that takes out themselves and their kids, which is a huge eye opener for all...  for a few seconds. What is it about this time of year that brings such polar opposite emotions out? What is happening?

I personally think it all comes down to expectations.
There is an expectation that this is a jolly time of year, a time to be kind to one another, a time for family and friends, a time to celebrate together.

But, what if you don't have healthy family and this is an extremely stressful time. What if you can't afford to "keep up appearances" and buy lots of gifts, What if you have social anxiety and every one wants you to visit with them?  Then what?

Then your anxiety and depression grow. 

If you already have a tendency toward depression and/ or anxiety this can be an especially tough time of year that culminates into a holiday overdose of sadness and trauma.

So, what can we do to help our loved ones who may be suffering from depression and/or anxiety? 

Well, lets start with these four things not to do.

  • Do NOT tell them to "snap out of it". Having someone tell you to try harder when you are already giving it your best effort can be demoralizing and may make a person with depression or anxiety feel their situation is hopeless.
  • Do NOT tell them to 'Cheer Up".  Your well-meaning exhortations to "cheer up" or "smile" may feel friendly and supportive to you, but they oversimplify the feelings of sadness associated with depression.
  • Do NOT tell them it is all in their head. While a deficiency of mood-regulating substances is technically occurring in the mind, the phrase "all in your head" tends to be dismissive. People who hear the phrase may also feel attacked, as though they are being accused of "making it up" or lying about how they feel.
  • Do NOT say "This too shall pass". While this may be true, a person who is depressed or anxiety ridden may not have the perspective necessary to entertain the idea—let alone believe it. Platitudes, clichés, and vague statements don't offer much for someone to hold on to in terms of hope.

What you can do instead? 

  • Ask how you can help. It may seem simple, but give them the opportunity to tell you what they need. They may not answer you or they may tell you that they don’t know what you can do to help them, and that’s okay. The fact that you ask will mean something because it will show them that you care and are making an effort to help.
  • Send a thoughtful text. If you’re thinking about someone who has been down lately or is struggling, text them and check in on them. Ask them how they’re doing or give them a compliment. Simply say that you were thinking about them. Knowing that someone is actually thinking about them will mean a lot, even if they don’t say so. I can be having the worst day imaginable and an “I love you” text from my husband will still put a smile on my face. Don’t underestimate how much you mean to that person.
  • Put together a care package with all of their favorite things and ask them when it is okay for you to stop by and deliver it to them. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this. Buy a $1 bag at the dollar store and fill it with some things they love. Maybe there’s a movie they’ve been wanting to see. Pack some of their favorite snacks. Get them a gift card to one of their favorite stores. Pack some self-care items they can pamper themselves with, like lotion, a bath bomb, and a new luxurious loofah.
  • One of the best things you can do is help with chores. This is especially important for significant others and family members. Household chores are usually among the first to go when a depressive episode is rearing its ugly face. This can be anything from sweeping to vacuuming to dishes to laundry. Not only will they not be getting their chores done, but it often makes them feel stressed and guilty because they aren’t getting them done. The worst part is, it’s not even their fault, but depression isn’t rational.
  • Bring them a meal. Self-care is another one of those things that are among the first things to go when depression arises, and for some people that includes eating. Offer to cook or bring over takeout. Ask them if it’s okay if you stay and eat with them and if they say yes, that’s a great opportunity to talk to them and help put them at ease.
  • Don’t get frustrated or upset if they decline or cancel plans. When I’m experiencing a depressive episode, being around other people is the absolute last thing that I want to do. And the last thing that you should do is take it personally if they happen to cancel because it likely has nothing to do with you.
  • Listen without trying to analyze and fix everything. When someone is venting, it’s usually because they need to let certain thoughts or emotions out, and not necessarily because they’re looking for a solution in that moment, at least. So, try to refrain from responding with things like, “Well, have you thought about doing _________ (fill in the blank) to make it better?” or “You could always try _________ (fill in the blank).” Instead, just listen and try and understand their feelings and where they may be coming from. What they’re feeling in that moment may not always be rational, but it will mean a lot that you are trying to empathize with them. Speaking from my own personal experiences, most of the time, I would prefer my husband to listen to me and try to understand how I feel about something instead of trying to initiate a problem-solving brainstorming session.
  • Never invalidate their feelings. Everyone has a right to their own feelings. They may not always be rational, but that doesn’t make them any less real to that person. For that reason alone, they matter. Please don’t ever tell them to “get over it,” or “it’s not really that bad.”
  • Be there when they need it. And, by being there, I mean to be present. If you’re wanting to be there for someone, be there physically and mentally. For me, sitting in the same room with my husband can help immensely, assuming that he’s actually there and not lost in his phone. He used to get on his phone a lot when we would sit in the living room together. It made me feel like he wasn’t acknowledging that I was even in the room, which made me feel invisible. I know that it wasn’t intentional, but the thoughts my brain were telling me were so loud that I literally just could not take it. One day I finally had to say something to him and it got better after that. I mention this because some people may not speak up like I eventually did.
  • Offer to pamper them. You could offer to give them a relaxing massage or make their favorite dessert. Or, you could watch their favorite movie with them and bring lots of snacks.
  • If they ask you to leave them alone, it may be okay to do so as long as they aren’t exhibiting symptoms of suicidal behavior. Sometimes all they need is to be allowed to be alone for a while. For instance, if they’re acting anxious, maybe they have a school assignment due soon or a job interview tomorrow. If they’re withdrawing or isolating themselves, maybe they just got bad news. You should still show care and concern by attempting to figure out what is bothering them, but be aware that not every single negative feeling that a person is experiencing means that they are thinking about suicide.  - These what to do points are courtesy of 

So this holiday season if someone is not able to attend a function, be okay with that. Show your support in them looking after themselves. Maybe pack them a meal and drive it over to them later.

If they 'forget' to bring the salad they said they would, be okay with that. Maybe it took all they had just to get out of the house.

Just let them know you are thinking of them, but it is their choice to join or not.

Show that kindness to your loved ones as much as you would to a stranger at this time of year.

I wish for you all a magical (and creative) holiday season.


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