Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Coping with Depression and Loneliness During the Holidays (Or Anytime)

The word “holidays” can bring many joyful memories to us: memories of family traditions, beloved family members, aromatic smells from grandma’s kitchen, and more.  For many of us, this is exactly how it is—good memories and an excitement of the upcoming season.  For others, however, it can be a painful time.  Several reasons can be at play: family members living far away; relationships that have soured; the pandemic keeping family and friends apart; or one’s own mental health issues contribute to loneliness; and more.  Even those who normally cope well with daily life and common stressors can feel loneliness, depression, or anxiety during the “happy holidays”. 

Those of us who need assistance to get through the holidays can help ourselves.  One thing to do is to individualize our self-care.  We are not “cookie cutter” personalities nor do we have similar experiences or view experiences in the same way.  Let’s take a look at some self-care techniques that could work to assist you to maintain a more positive perspective during the holidays.



Try not to put too much pressure or expectations on yourself.  If you don’t feel like attending a holiday party, don’t.  You live your life as it works for you.  Take advantage of the solitude so that you can refresh and care for yourself.  According to Elizabeth Scott, MS, “give yourself spa treatments, curl up with a good book, enjoy a hobby, or learn something new,” (2020).  Look at this as an opportunity to take good care of yourself and appreciate you for who you are and what you can do to care for you.




Sometimes, given the technology available at our fingertips, we can form flawed expectations of the “perfect life”.  Social media, such as Instagram, usually only shows staged photos of a perfectly decorated home or perfect families.  Decreasing use of social media can help us to not feel stressed or hopeless about our own lives.  Remember everything that we see on social media or in magazines is not necessarily as perfect as it looks.  Comparing ourselves, our homes, our life to others can cause feelings of insignificance or failure. Remember to only compare yourself to your own goals in life and always give yourself a break.

Since you won’t be spending quite so much on social media, reach out to loved ones.  Write an old-fashioned letter to a friend or relative—they will appreciate receiving a heartfelt piece of mail that isn’t a bill!  If writing isn’t your thing, call when you have a bit of time to chat.  The fact that you are reaching out will be beneficial for both you and the recipient.



Many of us dwell on negative situations or disappointments in our lives more than the positives.  While it cannot always be the easiest thing to do, spend time reflecting on what you have gratitude for.  Make a list of those things—your health, your family and friends, what you have accomplished in life, things you enjoy such as nature or animals, and just simple things that you might enjoy each day without thinking about (a cup of hot coffee, your dog welcoming you home).  Writing the list to refer to and add to can be helpful.



Some people might find solace and peace in helping others who are less fortunate.  According to Scott, (2020) “Helping others who are less fortunate than you can fill you with feelings of love and pride,”.  Staying busy and finding satisfaction in easing others’ pain can be cathartic for many.  Look around and find agencies or charities you might volunteer at such as the local food bank, soup kitchen, animal shelter, or in delivering presents to those in need.  Staying busy in such a way can give you a feeling of satisfaction.  Do not just relegate it to just the holidays—try giving back all year.


Being active doesn’t always have to include running, jumping, or lifting heavy weights (unless you are already involved in those activities).  Being active can help decrease the likelihood of depression or the intensity of it.  According to Benitez, physical health is related to mental health and well-being, (2019).  Just 30 minutes of walking a day can be of benefit to both mental and physical health.  Setting small goals for physical activity that are attainable motivates us.  Yoga, weightlifting, stretching, cycling, walking (with a friend, your dog or alone), and any number of physical activities can uplift one’s mood.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or overly time-consuming—find an activity you enjoy so you stick with it and then set aside “me time” several days a week to be active and have a more positive outlook.

                             SEEK HELP                                   

No matter what methods you choose to help with your loneliness or depression during the holidays (or anytime) make sure that you don’t isolate yourself to the point of not taking care of yourself.  A trusted friend or family member can be a listening ear but you might need professional help.

*If you are on prescription medications for depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, make sure you take the meds as prescribed by your healthcare provider.  If you feel that they aren’t as effective as previously, contact your provider ASAP for an in-office or telehealth appointment. If you aren’t on medications and feel that your condition is worsening, call for an appointment with your physician.  If needed, go to your local emergency room for medical care.

*If thoughts of self-harm arise and you are feeling hopeless, immediately call any one of a number of hotlines that are staffed with trained professionals or volunteers to assist you immediately.  Below are several hotlines to call. You can also call 911.


SAMHSA National Helpline

1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Operates 24/7


Crisis Text Line

Text 741741

Operates 24/7 via text messaging


Veterans Crisis Line

1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Text 838255


SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline

1-800-985-5990 or Text "TalkWithUs" to 66746

Assists with man-made or natural disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)



Benitez, T. (2019, November). Yoga, running, and other workouts can combat depressive episodes. Retrieved from

National Helpline Database. (2020). Retrieved from                                                 

Scott, E. (2020, October 24). Loneliness and the holidays. Retrieved from






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