During the holidays, the focus on family and loved ones can bring up heartache in those who have experienced loss. For most, the end of the year is a time for reflecting on the past. However, if someone’s present feels dim, this often brings up feelings of emptiness, while comparisons are drawn between their current situation and those of better times.
And while anyone can fall prey to holiday blues, for those who suffer from depression, this time of year can be a time of dread, with the collective sense of joy and goodwill serving as a reminder of their difficulty in tapping into these feelings on a daily basis.
Remember that social connectedness is a crucial piece of the wellness puzzle for all of humanity but especially for those whose existence is tainted by the darkness of this increasingly common mental illness.
As depression becomes more and more common in today’s society, there are a growing number of resources that help shed light on this complex topic. If you or someone you know is dealing with this disease, it is very important to seek medical care to assess, help fight and overcome or simply cope with the condition.
Depression may be expressed in many ways, and some characteristics include a lack of energy, a loss of interest or pleasure in doing things, and a sense of worthlessness. While there is no simple fix, there are some simple things you can keep in mind when it comes to supporting friends and loved ones who are struggling with the illness. Here are a few simple “do’s and don’ts”:
Do: Check out the resources listed below. Depression is a wide ranging and serious condition and this post by no means covers the breath and depth of it. If you don’t have enough time to tap into all, at least watch the 3 minute Brené Brown video about empathy. I love her main point that what makes something better is connection NOT advice.
Don’t: Try to coerce someone into feeling better. Calling someone a scrooge, telling them to get over it, or downplaying their hardship in any way will have the exact opposite effect. Your effort to talk them into feeling better makes it worse.
Do: Acknowledge their feelings, let them know you’re there for them. The simple act of letting someone be in their pain is a validating act. Offering your support and lending them an ear can alleviate the isolating effects and feelings of guilt associated with not being able to just feel better.
Don’t: Take it personally if someone seems uninterested… and don’t take it as a sign to stop reaching out! This one can be especially tricky, but try not let someone’s lack of enthusiasm about your offering be taken with offense.
Do: Respect their decision of not going along with your plan, and let them know that you’ll continue checking in. Reaching out and communicating your genuine desire to be involved in their lives -and vice versa- lets them know that you value them and gives them a sense of reassurance.
Don’t: Assume someone will get better on their own.
Do: Offer help in seeking medical attention if they are not currently involved in a treatment plan. Depression, like any illness should be taken seriously and can be helped in a number of ways by professional attention.
It’s likely that your calendar doesn’t have a lot of open time to lend an ear or a hand to someone who is going through a rough spell or suffering from depression. Yet knowing that the holidays can be a particularly hard time for many folks, why not do right by the reason for the season and gift your caring to someone who could really use it? With all that joy circling around in the air, what better time to harvest it up and pass it on?
When happiness is shared it can become a renewable resource, a gift that truly keeps on giving.
A few online resources regarding depression and support:
Feature photo by Angela Carlyle