The Holidays and Depression in 2020’s New Normal

The Holidays and Depression

By Sylvia Luneau

If you’ve been anywhere near social media lately, you’ve seen about a hundred jokes about how we should just fast forward through the rest of 2020. Honestly, most of the time I completely agree. I hope that a decade from now we’ll all look back on this time with a sense of disbelief and maybe a little bit of humor at the relentlessly ridiculous litany of just, bad things, that happened all at once. However, while we’re living through it, sometimes we just can’t find the humor. And in the midst of the first massive pandemic or our lifetimes, an already incredibly stressful time of year approaches. The holiday season. 

It is a time for family, reunions, and reflection and for a lot of people that can be just way too much in even normal times. For those barely managing the current psychological onslaught of these unprecedented times, there’s an extra degree of difficulty to the 2020 holiday season. There are a lot of reasons that this time of year can be so difficult for people and we’ll likely see some of those effects compound in the current crisis.

So, what can we do during this heightened time of stress?

 Our general culture around the holidays is one that links joyful celebration to spending money. This might just be the year to actively work to deactivate that link. Let those around you, particularly the adults, know that this year you want to do something different. We’ve all been so isolated, so find ways to create experiences, in lieu of the usual gift exchange. Presence instead of presents. Not only could this help you or other family and friends with financial concerns around the season, it could also help with the feelings of isolation that so many of us are experiencing deeply during quarantine. 

Listen to others genuinely and without judgement. We all need a safe shoulder to lean on at one time or another. You may unknowingly be supporting someone who is at risk with your kindness and compassion. We all need each other, but some of us are really bad at asking for help. So be kind whenever you can.

Mental illness can be difficult to recognize. Because it is so heavily stigmatized, people often work hard to hide the signs. As much as we might wish, there’s no simple formula to help those struggling with depression. On top of that, some people won’t speak openly about their battle with depression. If that is you, know that you are not alone and that there are resources and people standing by to help.

Let’s take extra care this year to check in and check up on those around us. It’s been a hard year. Reach out to loved ones when you can be supportive and ask for support in return when you’re empty. The people around you: family, friends (sometimes who have become family), and colleagues, all want you to be happy. We all want each other to be happy. This year especially we need to actively work toward that, because it might not be easy.

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