Feeling Like A Grinch? 2 Holiday Hacks To Keep You Jolly

The Grinch

Easy there, Grinch! These simple changes will help you and your little Whos enjoy the season.

It's most wonderful time of the year—the "hap-happiest season of all"—and you're depressed.

Everywhere you look, people are bustling about, presumably filled with joy, but you're not feeling it. Your spouse feels excited about the company party and your kids eagerly wait for Santa to drop off the loot, but you are SO waiting for the artificial hoopla to end.

From sappy Hallmark movies to your family's bazillion expectations, depression especially sucks at the holidays.

You know the kids don't deserve you raining on their festive parade, but your feelings are valid and you can't turn them off—as ordered by your spouse or parents. If you could, it wouldn't be called depression.

Forget trying to make depression go away; it's time to start tweaking your response to it—in simple ways.

Here are tips to help the holidays become a little less offensive to you and those you love. These are small, practical changes, and I promise you can handle them:

Depression tweak #1: Separate "liking" from "doing".

You probably don't like much about the holiday season. You don't like getting up and getting dressed, being around people, decorating the house or making sugar cookies, and you don't like shopping.

I get it, but here's a larger truth we all need to face: sometimes there are compelling reasons to do what we don't like.

For example:

  • You don't like getting out of bed in the mornings, but you do because the kids need breakfast and help getting ready for school.
  • You don't like being around people, but you go to the grocery store because your family needs food and toilet paper.
  • You may hate your job, but you work to provide for the family.
  • You don't like decorating, but your children provide compelling reasons to decorate.
  • You don't like the hassle of baking, family presence provides good reasons to bake.

Your mission isn't to turn into someone you're not. You don't need magical visits from the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, or Future. You just need to have a good think about what you don't-like-but-will-do this holiday.

So, bring this same don't-like-but-will-do mojo to your family's holiday. It's time to separate liking from doing. Every day this week, let the compelling reasons to do something outweigh your feelings of dislike.

Depression tweak #2: Give your expectations a reality check. 

Now that your don't-like-but-will-do mojo is cranking up, it's a good time to adjust your expectations. After all, we're talking depression tweaks here, not monumental change.

Have you ever noticed that when expectations are unrealistic, your feelings of discontent expand? You can't afford that when you struggle with depression. So as you decide what you will do, make sure your expectations match your resources all along the way.

Maybe you've baked cookies for the past 5 years with your kids, but this year you're depressed and the thought of making 50 million cookies from scratch overwhelms you.

If compelling reasons fuel the baking experience, think about how to tweak it: Make fewer cookies, use simpler recipes, or buy a roll of refrigerator cookie dough.

Here's the reality check: Adjust the baking experience to your present energy level, financial resources, and available time.

Maybe you normally put up two Christmas trees and decorate the house from pillar to post. But, when the Chief Decorator feels depressed, that's not an option. Let the Martha Stewarts of the world decorate their own homes, while we focus on yours.

If compelling reasons call for a tree, have one instead of two. Get a smaller tree instead of a ginormous one. Use fewer decorations. Let the kids help. Forget perfection and adjust decorating expectations to match your present energy level, financial resources, and available time.

It's time to give your holiday expectations a reality check. The goal is to get you moving, but not to wear you out. Do your best to set reasonable limits for giving, decorating, baking, and socializing.  

The Bottom Line

It's hard to live with depression, especially when the whole world is smiling. But, you can begin to change your response to it right now. It's all about tweaking something. Experiment with these simple tips, and see what happens.

If you realize that you can't control depression, it's time to seek professional help—pronto. Contact a counselor or therapist who specializes in depression. If you're in Northern VA, contact me. I'm here to help. Consider seeing a psychiatrist for possible medication. And if you ever cannot guarantee your own safety, call 911 immediately or go to the nearest emergency room. You're worth it, my friend.

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