Simplify the Holidays to Preserve Your Sanity

My parents do a beautiful job with decorating for Christmas – they always have. Every year they get a real live tree. They have a couple of hundred of beautiful ornaments, as well as garlands and other assorted decorations. The tree is always put up at least two weeks before Christmas. Granted, they’re retired, but it was always like this even when they both were working.

In contrast, my husband and I broke down a couple of years ago and got a fake tree (I love the smell of evergreens, but it’s not enough to counter the expense of a live tree and the cleanup). I feel virtuous if we get the tree up a week before Christmas, and it’s been done on Christmas Eve on more than one occasion. It took me a long time to let go of my parents’ standards and to stop feeling guilty if I didn’t live up to them.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas. I have some great memories of Christmas, especially sensory memories. The smell of evergreen and mulled cider, the sound of Christmas music and the dazzling display on the tree. They were such an essential part of my childhood that I’m ensuring that my son has some of the same experiences. Last year we had his best friend over to decorate Christmas cookies.

But, oh my gosh. It can be stressful. Let’s face it, those childhood memories generally don’t involve spending every weekend in crowded shopping malls finding the perfect present, opening the credit card bill in January, cooking and cleaning for fifteen people and basically running around like a chicken with your head cut off. We’re always struggling to live up to an ideal that is literally impossible to match, unless we’re Martha Stewart. And really, at least half of the people who read her magazine are trying to emulate an ideal, but usually just don’t have the time, right? Continue reading

Share

Depression and the Holidays Survival Guide

Image: Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer

Angel by Abbott Handerson Thayer

Let’s be honest – even if you’re not suffering from clinical depression, the holidays can be stressful and often disappointing. We run ourselves ragged buying gifts, cooking, decorating and entertaining. Tempers flare as we’re thrown together with relatives whom we see infrequently, and don’t necessarily enjoy spending time with. Expectations are high that this season will be magical and perfect as we try to recapture the anticipation we felt as children waiting for Santa, or wait for a rush of emotion as we ponder the religious significance of Christmas and Chanukah. When those feelings don’t automatically well up, we’re disappointed. And, of course, we’re ready to take the nearest heavy object to the tv or computer when we see the same holiday commercial for the 487th time. Continue reading

Share

Men and Depression

burne_jones_prince_entering_the_briar_wood_detail_smSoon after I created this website in 1995, I wrote an article about women and depression. At that time it was believed that women suffer from depression about twice as often as men do, although no one was sure why. Some hypotheses posed biological reasons, such as greater incidence of sexual assault and abuse and role in society.

I was never completely comfortable with the idea that more women than men were depressed. It didn’t seem to make sense to me. For one thing, most of the famous people with depression who came to mind (for me, at least) were men. Winston Churchill, Mike Wallace, Abraham Lincoln, Robin Williams and Terry Bradshaw, to name a few. Not that famous women didn’t come to mind, but I couldn’t come up with a much larger number of┬ámore women than men.

The other thing that bothered me, as it always does, is that there was no clear reason why women would experience depression so much more than men. I admit that I like to have reasons for things; I don’t want there to be unknowns when it comes to something like depression. And all the explanations for the disparity were vague at best.┬áHormones, sure. Societal issues, maybe. But nothing that accounted for this purportedly large difference in the numbers between men and women. Continue reading

Share

Keep the Holiday Support Going

Image: The Baths at Caracalla by Sir Lawrence Alma_Tadema

The Baths at Caracalla by Sir Lawrence Alma_Tadema

You may be breathing a sigh of relief now that the holidays are over. There’s no question that there are many aspects of the holiday season that are tough on someone with depression. Things that tax your energy like shopping and cooking, parties and gatherings that require you to attempt a smile and engage in chit-chat, and of course, spending time with friends and family when you’d rather curl up in bed by yourself. All in all, an experience to be endured, and the worst part is that you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself!

And since you’ve heard that the holidays see the highest rate of suicide all year, you may also be confident that you’ve passed the danger zone. Well, not exactly. The thing is, we’re heading into the danger zone for suicides, not away from it. Contrary to popular belief, the holidays are not the time of the year when we see the most suicides. The beginning of the year, after all the festivities and for many people, in the dead of a dark, endless winter, can be the time when they lose hope. Continue reading

Share

Being Alone and Depressed During the Holidays

Image: Winter by Alphonse Mucha

Winter by Alphonse Mucha

If you’re going to be alone during the holidays and you have clinical depression, you’re looking at a double whammy that could do a number on you before the end of the year. By Christmas Eve, your depression voice might be telling you that you’re a sad loser – unless you come up with some countermeasures. Keep these thoughts and suggestions in mind:

  • If you’re alone because someone close to you has died, or because your marriage or relationship has ended, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  • Ask yourself – are you actually okay with being alone during the holidays, but feel that you should be spending it with other people? We’re all bombarded with images of happy families spending time together during the holidays. Remember that as wonderful as it can be to be with family, it’s also very stressful.
  • Continue reading

Share