Many divorced parents start to get depressed while thinking about Thanksgiving and then comes Christmas. Seasonal Affective Disorder can contribute to a parent's sadness. So try concentrating on making the holidays joyous for your kids, not for yourself. Try to let go, relax, and go with the flow. And, if necessary, seek medical help for your anxiety and depression.
Divorce depression appears to hit people the hardest around the holidays. Well, some divorced parents don’t get to see their children at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, which can make November and December some of the hardest months of the year. Along with that, people who live in northern climates sometimes have to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) along with the rest of it.
While sadness and loneliness are common after a divorce, any ongoing, unusual depression or feeling of hopelessness may, in fact, be clinical depression. Fortunately, clinical depression can be treated with the help of a physician and a therapist and talk therapy which helps tremendously to get things out that you have stuck inside your head. Many times, talk therapy mixed with a short dose (6 - 8 months) of antidepressants is what you need. Depression can also run in families. It's not your fault.
Coping with holiday depression and having a broken family is just plain tough for everyone. And, almost all divorced people have difficulties with this time of the year. Here are some steps to help you get through the holiday season. The holiday blues or holiday depression may occur during any holiday or vacation time, but most commonly happens during the December holidays when everyone else in the world seems to be is celebrating. The blues can result from a mis-match between high expectations for the perfect holiday mixed with memories of holidays past, loved ones no longer present and the reality of the current holiday. The Holiday Blues although emotionally intense and upsetting, they tend to be short-lived and subside once the holiday season is over and normal daily routines are resumed.
Help the Children
Try to keep things in perspective. Adults are the ones who married and divorced, and it's not fair that innocent and impressionable children should suffer from the mistakes of their parents. Also, divorced parents may very well be happier themselves if they concentrate more on their children's happiness and less on their own.
Tips for Holidays:
- If your children are with your ex for one of the holidays, encourage your kids to have a good time while they are with the other parent.
- Christmas is not a competition. Do not compete with your ex over who can give the most presents. The only one who wins will be the bank that gave you the Visa card.
- Do not keep your children from seeing their other parent.
- Allow your children to love both of their parents, and be sure that your kids understand this. One way is to help your child make a present for his or her other parent.
- Be flexible. The best present you can give your kids is for you and your ex to get along, and to adjust written agreements to fit your children’s needs.
- Let go of expectations and relax.
- Keep your promises as much as possible. Show up on time or drop your kids off on time.
Self Help for Depression
There is one very good rule for getting through the holidays after having gone through a nasty divorce: Let go of anger. While this may be easier said than done, it can be done. Try thinking about happy days before the marriage or before meeting the ex-spouse. Here are other tips:
- Smile when talking to your ex or talking about your ex. A smile creates a reaction in the body and tricks the mind into creating a happy mood by releasing endorphins and serotonin.
- Get out of town or find new friends. Holidays remind parents of Thanksgivings and Christmases past. So, make plans to spend time with friends or to take off on a road trip. Holidays can be lonely.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Another problem that can add to Christmas blues and divorce depression is lack of sunlight. The well-documented Seasonal Affective Disorder is caused by the shorter darker days of winter and can lead to cravings for carbs, a need for more sleep, sleep disturbances, and general irritability.
People who were melancholic or lethargic around Christmastime, even before their divorces, could have SAD. This disorder is usually treated with special light therapy boxes, medications, or by talking with therapists. See a physician or psychologist for help.
Certainly, it is quite common for divorced men and women to feel depressed around the holidays. However, anyone who has felt sad for two weeks or more, or feels an intense, debilitating depression, or an unbearable anxiety, should check with a doctor to find a treatment for it.
Winter blues can come from divorce depression, shorter days, or holiday nostalgia and loneliness. If self-help doesn’t work, talk to a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or a general practitioner. Parents who are divorced should take very good care of themselves because their children need them.
Basics of Coping with the Blues
For anyone feeling blue or sad like Charlie Brown during the holidays, there are some very basic, common sense steps that can be taken to help in coping.
- Maintain a normal routine. Try and continue with normal daily activities.
- Be sure to get enough sleep or at least rest if sleeping is difficult.
- Regular exercise, even walking, helps relieve stress and tension and improve moods.
- Maintain a balanced diet. Watch out for the temptation to eat high calorie "junk" foods and comfort foods. This will help avoid the post-holiday depressing weight gain.
- Alcohol should be used in moderation, not to mask the pain. Excessive drinking can contribute to feeling blue or depressed.
- Take it one hour at a time, one day at a time.
- Do those activities, or be with the people that comfort, sustain, nourish and recharge you.
- Remember other times in the past when you have experienced loss and the strategies used to survive the loss.