Dealing with Family & Depression over the Holidays

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Holidays, family and depression.  This can be a recipe for disaster or happy memories – and sometimes both.  The real question, I think, becomes:  How do we minimize the depression, sadness, and the ability to be triggered by our family during the holidays?  Here are a few suggestions:

1)  Use the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid): 

When buying gifts for the family (and then sending them out) – order on line and have the gifts sent directly to the family member’s home!  Try gift cards!  Still buying for the whole family??  Draw names and turn 20 gifts into ONE!

Cooking – Cook as much of your dinner (and food for your party) beforehand.  This Thanksgiving my in laws purchased two pre-cooked turkeys.  They were DELICIOUS!  The Cooking Channel has wonderful ideas for simplicity in holiday cooking.  I love Rachael Ray!  “I KNOW!”  And, if you don’t like to cook, let someone else do it!!

(2) Create Healthy Boundaries for yourself and your family:

When you’ve had your fill for the moment, take a walk.  This gives you space, allows you to clear your head, and you get some great exercise in the process!  It’s a win/win! 

Take your own car (or rent one) so that you can come and go as you please.  Make sure you have a bedroom with a door to sleep (and take some quiet time). 

House too small for all the family?  Then stay in a cheap hotel.  Having a place you can go, close the door, and sleep comfortably is VERY important.

(3) Nurture yourself:

Give yourself 10 quiet minutes each day.  Silence IS golden – especially around family and the holidays!  Use this time to decide HOW you want to spend your day.  What is your positive intention?  How do you want to act?  How do you want to see your family?  What memories and images do you want to hold and which ones are you ready to get rid of?  Use these 10 minutes to clear your head and start your day off in a positive way.  

Take a long, hot bath.  Light candles.  Turn one some quiet music!  The only question to ask here is:  bubbles or no bubbles? 

Remember to give yourself lots of supp0rt during the holidays!  Reach out and call a friend.  This is also a perfect time for therapy sessions – wonderful “aha” moments come with the holidays & family too!

(4)  Have a job or purpose:

I LOVE to cook.  One thing about my current holidays is that I don’t get to cook very much.  So, this Thanksgiving I was at my in-laws and I volunteered for the most boring and messy jobs.  I picked the turkey, peeled potatoes and peeled apples for apple pie!  Not only did it give me a job/purpose, it made me feel a part of, and the work calmed me and made me happy!  If this doesn’t sound like you, offer to be the one cleaning up, or doing the dishes, or going to the grocery store, or some daily job that takes you OFF the battleground, distracts you, makes you feel useful and a part of the holiday.  When all else fails, I read a book or my Kindle.  This works too!!

(5)  Stay away from too much alcohol:

Alcohol is a depressant.  If you are already struggling with Depression, this is not a good place to go!  Alcohol also reduces inhibitions – you don’t want to say things you will be sorry for tomorrow.  Finally, studies show that people who have had a glass of wine eat more food than when the same people didn’t have any alcohol. 

(6)  When depression hits or when you get triggered with family:  

“The overlooking of the battleground is now your purpose.”  Course in Miracles.  This is my mantra with family (and it doesn’t ALWAYS work!). 

When I am triggered by my family, I put myself in a time out and go clear my head.  For you this can mean going for a walk, going to your bedroom, or taking a drive in your car.  When we are with our family, we can start to feel and act very young.  Old roles and patterns are played out.  Take a moment to remember a)Who you REALLY are today and b)How old you are today. 

This might be a good time to journal how you are feeling and what got triggered inside of you.  What feelings, patterns, images, and STUFF are at play in this moment.  Where there is STUFF there is an “aha” moment just around the corner!!  You may not be able to see it now, but if you journal about it, you can come back to it later when you are in a better space and see the lesson/challenge that is at hand. 

My best way to calm down and clear my head?  Get in my car, play my favorite Christmas songs, and sing as LOUD as I can!!!  A little bit of that I am a different person!  Why?  I love Christmas and I love to sing.  It brings me back to my favorite holiday memories, my heart, and the true meaning of the holiday at hand!

I hope these ideas help you find more joy and less depressed over the holidays!

Love to you