Tag: Christmas

5 Things to Do to For Depression During the Holidays

By Deanna Cauthen

Deanna Cauthen is as a contributing writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Decatur Dispatch and Tucker Times news magazines, publications of Hometown Newspapers.

depression

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I love everything about it–the music, (yes, even the old, corny songs about Rudolph and his red nose), attending holiday parties and eating delectable food, and the shopping, wrapping, and gifting of presents.

If you came to my home during the holidays, it would not be unusual to find me belting out my favorite Christmas song, eating a holiday cookie, while decorating the Christmas tree and wearing reindeer antlers. But this year, getting into the holiday spirit has been difficult.

Besides dealing with the physical and the emotional upheaval that comes with menopause, over the past 12 months, I’ve experienced a major blow up with the mother of our grandchildren which led to a severed relationship with her and the children, had serious communication issues with an adult child that resulted in a major conflict, and left a church fellowship where our family has faithfully served for more than 22 years.

And I assure you that I am not only one experiencing major losses. I have friends who’ve been recently diagnosed with debilitating and degenerative diseases, some who have recently had a loved one die, and others who are dealing with the isolation and loneliness that sometimes comes with getting old, being sick, and incapacitated.

There are people who are dealing with job loss and extreme financial distress and let’s not forget about the many families in Southern California whose homes have been consumed by wildfires. There are countless other situations where people are hurting deeply and in the depths of despair.

Contrary to the happy holiday commercials where everyone is sitting around the dining table, eating the turkey and enjoying the festivities, statistics show that depression and anxiety are at an all-time high during this season of the year. So the question is what to do you when the merry is gone from Christmas? Below are a few suggestions that are helping me cope with the holiday blues.

  1.  Acknowledge the sadness and continue to grieve the loss.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that despises weakness and everything associated with it. As a result, many of us feel it necessary to walk around wearing masks of fake happiness, but life is hard and sad things happen. It’s important to acknowledge the pain and not pretend that it doesn’t exist.

If you’ve had a significant loss as a result of losing a loved one to death, divorce, or you have experienced loss in some other way, it’s important to mourn that loss. How to do that will look different depending on the particulars of your situation.

One way that I process my pain is by writing in my journal. It’s a safe place to put my feelings because I don’t have to worry about anybody criticizing or judging me. The things that I write down in my journal are for my eyes and my eyes alone. I call it “cheap therapy”.

Talking with my husband and other trusted friends helps me to process pain is another thing that I do help process my sadness. Having another person that will listen and acknowledge my hurt is a healing balm for my spirit.

If you do not have a network of family and friends to go to, a support group can provide some much-needed help. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is a great resource for support. They have a plethora of information on their website and you can enter your zip code to see if there is a free support group in your area.

  1. Keep your holiday traditions as much as you can.

Although you may not feel like it initially, it helps if you can keep at least some of your holiday traditions.

Having my husband take down all of the Christmas bins from the attic, going through each of them, deciding what decorations I wanted to use this year, and then starting the process of decorating the house, helped me to “get in the mood”.

At first, it felt superficial, like I was just going through the motions, which was exactly what I was doing, but as time went on, I started to feel differently. Putting on the Santa hat, decorating the tree, and listening to Christmas music actually did help me feel better. Did it take away all of the sadness? No, but it helped.

Another one of our family traditions is hosting the Christmas Eve dinner for my side of the family. In addition to hosting, we usually go out and purchase a ton of gifts to give to family and friends, but this year I had neither the energy or the money and I seriously thought about canceling the whole thing.

But then I realized that it doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”. After talking it over with my husband and our youngest daughter, we decided that we would only give homemade treats or simple gifts, and we asked everybody to bring a food item to share. This takes the physical and financial pressure off of us and still allows us to celebrate the holidays with family and friends.

If funds are tight and you like to bake, consider giving cookies or other baked goods as gifts for the holidays. You can purchase cookie tins at your local thrift store for pennies (I purchased 20 tins for under $3). Allrecipes.com, as well as other websites, offer a ton of wonderful cookie recipes.

  1. Make the effort to reach out to others.

When you’re feeling depressed or sad, the last thing you probably feel like doing is going out, however, I’d like to encourage you to resist the urge to withdraw. This can be hard when you don’t have very much energy, but do it anyway.

It’s important to go to the holiday concert, the Christmas party, or the holiday luncheon. Even if you can only stay for a short while, going can make the difference between feeling completely isolated and having some human connection. You don’t need to try to talk to everyone. Just pick one or two people to connect with and start a conversation. I have found that when I reach out to people, many times they will return the favor.

The holidays are also a great time to talk to people you haven’t seen or spoken to in awhile. Use this time to pick up the phone or break out the Christmas cards and write warm messages to your friends and family members. If don’t feel like licking envelopes and purchasing stamps, try sending an electronic card via email. Crosscards.com allows you send holiday cards for free. Not only will this brighten their day, but doing the activity will brighten your spirit, as well.

  1. Meditate on the positive.

One of the things that I have found to be vitally important when I’m in a slump is to manage my thought life. I struggle with anxiety and fear, so if I’m not careful, I can allow a plethora of anxious thoughts to plunge me into the depths of despair.

In order to avoid this, I have had to consciously and deliberately take control of the way I think. I do this by making time to meditate. This is easier said than done since there are so many distractions. Constant notifications from things like Facebook and other social media, the barrage of daily emails, text messaging, and any number of other things on the internet, are constantly demanding our attention.

But we can choose to fight back and take control of our soul. This means finding a quiet place and meditating on scripture or other inspirational passages. Some of my favorite scripture passages to meditate on are:

“I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.” (Psalm 23:4)

“Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.” (Philippians 4:6)

“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

“…. My friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.” (Philippians 4:8)

  1. Take time out to exercise.

According to information from the Mayo Clinic, “regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.”(1)

Making and meeting regular exercise goals also gives you the opportunity to take your mind off of your worries and get out of the cycle of negative thinking that fuels depression and anxiety. I have personally noticed that on the days when I make the effort to get out and walk for 30 minutes or so, my mood is so much better.

Regular exercise also benefits you psychologically and emotionally too because it can help you to gain confidence, get more social interaction, and manage your depression or anxiety in a positive, healthy way. Additionally, getting outside and exposing yourself to more light can significantly improve depression.

I realize that none of these things by themselves is going to solve all of our problems or relieve all the sadness, but collectively they can help to cheer our spirits. I encourage you to try them and reclaim this time of the year.

  1. Mayo Clinic article “Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms”, September 27, 2017, http://www.mayoclinic.com.

 

Don’t Miss Christmas

decorating-christmas-tree-143

By Deanna Cauthen

As I sit here, at the dining room table, in the quiet, early hours of a Wednesday morning, I look at the Christmas tree glowing in the darkness of the next room.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even want to put up a Christmas tree at this house.  I wanted to wait and put it up at the new house that we’re purchasing, but my husband insisted that we do it here. He was afraid that in the hustle and bustle of trying to move and with the craziness of everything else that we have going on with our lives that we would “miss Christmas”.

There’s nothing like being in the middle of move and having your house torn down, especially during the Christmas holidays. According to my perfect plan, we should have already been moved in, unpacked and sitting in the den of the new house roasting chestnuts over an open fire (well, maybe not over an open fire because we’d be using the fireplace and definitely not chestnuts since I’m allergic to them, but you know what I mean). Instead, we are doing Christmas amongst a mountain of boxes that tower over us while we sit in the den–the OLD den.

A last minute oversight by the loan officer set off a flurry of emails between us, the real estate agent, the sellers, and the bank underwriters. In the end, it meant coming up with more money and this resulted in a change in closing dates, which at times, has left me feeling frantic and frazzled. Nothing has gone according to plan and the whole experience has been very unsettling.

And then I thought about the first Christmas with Mary and Joseph and how unsettled things must have been for them.  Think about it for a minute, folks. Here was a young girl (I believe she was just a teenager at the time) pregnant with a child who was not her husband’s, traveling across several miles on a donkey, to another city to have a baby.  When they finally reach Bethlehem, because of all the people in town for the census, the inns and other places to stay were completely full and there she was ready to give birth. How unsettling is that!

We all know the rest of the story.  An innkeeper tells Joseph that they can use the nearby stable for lodging and it is there that Mary, amongst the animals, gives birth. There was no doctor, not even a midwife, to help Mary bring Jesus into the world. She had to lay down in the hay, where animals had been sleeping, and give birth to a baby on the ground. I dare say, that the sanitary conditions of a stable couldn’t have been the best, yet Mary and Joseph did what they had to do.

My point is this–sometimes the circumstances of a situation can make life more than a little hectic. The temptation, during these times, is to let our minds and hearts get caught up with all the bad stuff and forget the bigger picture.  Again, I look at Mary and think about what might have been going through her mind as she packed up her belongings and prepared for the long trip that she and Joseph were about to take.  She was leaving the comforts of her home and family to have a her baby in a far away city.  In the days and moments leading up to her departure, she obviously chose to focus on something greater than her discomfort and any fears that she might have been experiencing. Otherwise, why on earth would she have agreed to go? She could have easily said, “Joseph I ain’t goin’ nowhere ‘til I have this baby!”

Sometimes our current situation feels chaotic and it doesn’t seem to make sense, just like it didn’t on that first Christmas with Mary and Joseph, but remember that God has a much bigger plan and that my story and your story doesn’t end with our present set of circumstances. Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart, I have conquered the world.”

So the word for you and for me today is, FOCUS. Focus on Jesus, not the baby-in-the-manger Jesus, but the risen, victorious Savior, Jesus. Focus on his love, his care, and on the fact that he is Emmanuel--God with us. This is what I have to keep telling myself as I struggle to get through the coming days. God is with me and promised that he would never leave me or forsake me. Even during the craziest of times.

And the same goes for you, too.  I don’t know what you’re going through. Maybe it’s a move like us or maybe it’s a serious illness, a financial problem, or a painful divorce or some other kind of broken family relationship. I once heard a preacher say that Jesus doesn’t always calm the storm, but he will help us to get through it. So when the problems in your life are swirling around you like a mighty storm, and threatening to consume you, listen very carefully and you will be able to hear the voice of Jesus, saying, “Be still, and know that I am God”.

My prayer for myself and for you is that Jesus, The Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace would “guard our hearts and minds” even as we weather the storm to celebrate this Christmas season.