The holidays can be equally joyous and stressful. Fulfilling expectations of gifting, visiting, cooking, and entertaining can lead to tension and exhaustion. Unfortunately, for those battling depression, this sense of overwhelm can have an even greater impact. However, there are techniques that may help in these situations. Learning coping mechanisms for depression around the holidays (and year-round) can not only alleviate acute depression and anxiety, but it can also provide insight for chronic depression symptoms and highlight when it may be time to get help.
Before the pandemic, depression was already one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States affecting around eight percent of the population. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, levels of depression skyrocketed in 2020 and have remained high in 2021. Today, nearly one in three Americans (over 30 percent) are struggling with depression.
Clinical depression, known as major depressive disorder (MDD), can show up during certain seasons. Usually, the short, darker days of winter are associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is described as MDD with a seasonal pattern.
Depression is a complex brain disease that is characterized by intense sadness and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. Sometimes described as being numb, these feelings can be triggered by events that provoke stress. Examples of stressful events may include the death of a loved one, physical illness, or substance abuse.
Symptoms of depression can be ongoing or, for many, depression comes in waves. To recognize and prevent the progression of depression symptoms during the holiday season, it’s important to be able to recognize triggers so the coping skills can be applied.
What are coping skills?
Coping skills are techniques that are used to deal with big emotions or stressful and traumatic events. These coping tools can be healthy or unhealthy in nature. Examples of coping skills that are negative include turning to drugs or alcohol for relief during stressful times. While substance use may alleviate tension in the short term, it deteriorates a person’s physical and mental health in the long run.
Alternatively, healthy coping mechanisms for depression tend to improve both mental and physical health. To illustrate, we’ve provided a list of coping skills to use any time symptoms of depression or anxiety arise.
NOTE: Depression can be serious. If you or someone you know is experiencing debilitating depression or thoughts of death or suicide, immediate mental health treatment is highly recommended.
10 Examples of Coping Skills to Ease Depression
Treatment for depression usually includes a combination of medication and counseling. In addition to these treatments, healthy coping skills for adults can significantly improve mental health during times of stress. To ease depression around the holidays, consider the following coping tools:
1. Keep Your Connections Close
It’s said that the opposite of addiction is connection, and the same concept can translate to mental wellness. If you notice you’re feeling isolated, reach out to the people who lift you up. This does not mean you should attend every holiday event that is requested of you. Rather, look to those select friends or family members that provide camaraderie and calm during stressful times. In the same regard, learn how to say no to the occasions that add stress to your plate.
2. Take Care of Your Body
Nutrition, exercise, and sleep have profound effects on our well-being. Making healthy food choices nourishes the body and mind rather than contributing to the toxins that our systems must detoxify. In addition, keeping the body in motion stimulates feel-good endorphins that combat symptoms of depression. Along the same lines, getting enough sleep gives the body the time necessary to recharge versus constantly trying to run on empty.
3. Reduce Exposure to Technology
Social media, news, and other technological influences shape our mindsets more than we realize. By limiting exposure to these outlets, you are letting less negativity influence your day-to-day routines. This means making a conscious effort to take a break from your mobile device may be necessary as well.
4. Get Outside
While the winter months can be cold, it still benefits our bodies to be outside. Going outside and getting closer to nature allows us time to decompress. In addition, the sun provides much-needed vitamin D during the winter months which may play an important part in mood regulation. Therefore, something as simple as incorporating a regular afternoon walk may provide benefits against depressive symptoms.
The holidays are a busy time. However, making the time for meditation could provide worthwhile benefits when dealing with depression. Meditation provides an opportunity to confront the negative thought processes that so frequently accompany depression. In this way, meditation presents an opportunity to break down these thoughts, and to contemplate alternative explanations for negative patterns.
6. Positive Affirmations
Declarations of worth are another worthwhile exercise to practice when depression symptoms arise. This coping skill can be practiced during meditation or during virtually any other time of day. Examples of positive affirmations that recognize value include statements like:
- You are loved at all times.
- Depression does not define you.
- You are bigger than your negative thoughts.
- Others value your presence.
- You are enough.
Ultimately, positive affirmations are a reminder that you are valued, even when you don’t feel it.
Writing out your thoughts is another tool to include in the coping mechanisms for depression toolbox. This method of expression again allows for the confrontation of negative thought processes. In addition, journaling is another place that positive affirmations can become routine. In this way, you are allowing the negative thought patterns to flow out, and you can work on replacing them with alternative thought processes (which is similar to the therapeutic technique CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy).
8. Avoid Substance Abuse
Substance abuse exacerbates symptoms of mental illness by disrupting the body’s processes. The high followed by a crash contributes to a roller coaster of emotions even on the best of days. Substances are chemicals that alter the brain’s own chemistry, and the results over time can be detrimental. Even occasional alcohol or drug use encourages imbalance by disrupting a person’s baseline, and something as simple as a hangover from drinking alcohol can trigger anxiety and depression that lasts for weeks.
9. Consider Psychotherapy
If self-care techniques for depression are falling short, seeing a counselor (or seeing one more often) may be the next step. Another option is to enroll in outpatient therapy for depression. An outpatient program would allow for intensive treatment at a behavioral treatment facility that is qualified to address the complex nature of depression. However, outpatient programs allow patients to stay in their own home and (sometimes) continue working if necessary.
10. Ask for Depression Help
Coping mechanisms for depression allow you to actively face situations that create stress and can empower you to expand these positive mechanisms to other areas in life. However, if coping tools are no longer improving depression symptoms, it may be time for more intensive help outside of self-care for depression. Therefore, if depression is causing significant disruptions in your life, the best thing you can do is ask for help.
Help with Depression in Louisiana
At Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital, we are well versed in treating depression. The following are a few examples are programs offered at our Louisiana behavioral health hospital:
- Adult Psychiatric Programs (inpatient and outpatient)
- Dual Diagnosis (to address any co-occurring addiction)
- Crisis Stabilization
At Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital we want you to know that you do not have to live with depression. To learn more about our mental health treatment options contact us at 225-300-8470 or by using our confidential online form, many times we can get you admitted as soon as today. Depression is treatable, and Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital can help.