As odd as it may sound, sometimes the holiday season can be a source of depression, especially for individuals on the autism spectrum. Holiday depression is usually temporary and mild, but it can become serious and can linger unless some precautions are taken.
Signs of holiday depression include:
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Feeling restless or fidgety
- Feeling worthless, helpless, or guilty
- Frequent crying
- Loss of interest or pleasure in doing things
- Sadness that won’t lift
- Sleeping too much
- Trouble concentrating
Is it possible to make it through this time of year without feeling down —and actually enjoy yourself? Yes! However, it will require (a) being proactive about sidestepping the challenges before they actually occur, and (b) self-awareness of the support you need and the situations that bring stress in your life during this time of year.
Here are some ideas to help alleviate the holiday blues:
1. Don’t feel “bad” about feeling “down.” There’s nothing wrong with not feeling cheerful. A lot of people experience the blues and feelings of loss during the holidays. So, be kind to yourself. Accept yourself no matter how you “feel” during this season.
2. Alter your expectations of the “ideal” Christmas.
3. Help others who may be feeling down during this time. Be a good listener and encourage discussions about emotions and concerns. Acknowledge difficult emotions, including a sense of loss if family or friends have moved away or died.
4. Do something creative that is holiday-related (e.g., bake some cookies and decorate them, make a few home-made Christmas cards, etc.).
5. Focus on what is good and the things you have, rather than on what is bad and the things you don’t have.
6. Take a brisk walk in the morning before you begin the day, or in the early evening to wind down. Fresh air and sunshine (when the sun is actually shining) will boost your mood.
7. Limit or eliminate “mandatory” contact with people. True, this is a time for “get-togethers.” But, if socializing is going to make matters worse, find a solitary activity that will bring you some joy. Sometimes, there’s nothing worse than being around a group of “cheerful” people when you’re the only one who is far from feeling cheerful.
8. Practice random acts of kindness every day during this season – nothing fancy, though. Keep it simple (e.g., opening the door for someone whose hands are full of packages).
9. Only spend time with the people you REALLY want to spend time with.
10. If you’re not in the mood to socialize and have “face-to-face” contact with family or friends, then a friendly phone call, a nice e-mail, a greeting card or letter can brighten your spirits.
11. Volunteering is a great mood lifter. Contact your local United Way, or call your local school, hospital, museum, or place of worship to inquire about volunteer opportunities in your area.
12. Watch some Christmas comedies. Humor is perhaps the best mood lifter. Here are a few to consider:
- "Bridget Jones's Diary" (2001)
- "Elf" (2003)
- "Home Alone" (1990)
- "Jingle All the Way" (1996)
- "Miracle on 34th Street" (1994)
- "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (1989)
- "Scrooged" (1988)
- "The Santa Clause" (1994)
- "When Harry Met Sally" (1989)
- “A Christmas Story” (1983)
Spring is right around the corner. So, get some enjoyment out of the holidays, because it will soon be over with!
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