For many, the holidays are a joyful time of year. They get to spend time with family and friends. Some people like to give gifts, others like to receive them. Some do a little of both. There are parties and family gatherings.
But for some, the holidays are very tough. There is a lot of stress – to find the perfect gift, to even afford gifts! Some parents get depressed because they cannot afford to offer the kind of Christmas to their children that they would like to. It can be an especially depressing time of the year for the elderly. They may be plagued by loneliness and isolation. Many have lost spouses and remembering those that have passed away makes the holidays even harder to bear. And with shorter, darker days this time of year, some people experience more depression.
1. Give them some of your time Sometimes the best present is your presence. Spend the night at your grandma’s house. Hand out candy canes at an assisted living center. Bring some funny movies and popcorn over to a friend’s house for the afternoon. You don’t necessarily have to make grand gestures, just spend a little of your time with them.
2. Get them out of the house Maybe it is just a trip to the local coffee shop, but getting them outside of their home can give a depressed person something to look forward to. Take your friend who can’t afford to fly home for the holidays out to dinner. Bundle up and meet them for a walk. The exercise, crisp air and company will do wonders for their mood.
3. Send them a card Personally, I am a huge fan of greeting cards. I tend to make a lot of them myself and send them throughout the year to friends and family because isn’t it nice to get something other than bills in the mailbox? A holiday card let’s them know that you are thinking of them and it is something they can hold onto, something that reminds them every time they look at it that they are important to someone.
4. Volunteer to help When I am depressed I can barely get out of bed, let alone think of going shopping. Take on the task of helping a depressed person by picking up things they need – be it groceries or their prescriptions. I’m not asking you to pay for these things, merely do the leg work. It will be so appreciated.
5. Be patient Don’t expect miracles. Doing any of these things or more isn’t likely to “snap them out of their depression.” Depression just isn’t something you “snap out of.” But these things will help. And, in time, their mood will lift, as mine always does. Don’t get fed up with them for their lack of enthusiasm or holiday spirit. Recognize that depression is real and intensely dark. Let your goal be to simply shine a little light.
This article first appeared on ‘Psych Central’ on 15 December 2013.