A well known song refers to the Christmas season as the "most wonderful time of the year", but that's always the case for some people. The hustle and bustle of the Holidays, the bright lights, the crowded malls and the Christmas blaring music everywhere doesn't always emit feelings of joy. In fact, it can become very overwhelming for many people, says Pat Hanberry, the CEO of the Mental Health Association of Frederick County. "We're hearing that on the radio all the time, and thinking that we're supposed to be happy. And we see people on the street and we assume that they're happy, even though they probably aren't any happier then we are, but they maybe act the part better. And so, we think that we ought to be, and if we're not feeling that way, that ends up making us feel even worse," she says.
But Hanberry says if you're not happy during the holiday season, that's okay. "You don't have to feel happy at the Holidays just because the song tells you to," she says.
Those probably feeling the most depressed during Christmas are those who have lost a loved one, either during the Holidays, or before. This is the first year that person will not be there to share in the joy of Christmas, and there will be an empty chair at the table when Holiday dinner is served. Hanberry says the best thing to do is to talk about your memories of this person during Christmas. "The worst I think you can do is take away that chair, pretend that there's not an empty seat, and sort of gloss over the fact that you've lost a loved one, when everybody's really sitting around missing that person. Talk about the person, and cry together. And if you're alone, cry too and remember your good memories of that person. That's okay," says Hanberry.
The Holidays themselves can get stressful as everyone is shopping frantically for that perfect gift for their family and friends. All of it can get overwhelming, but Hanberry says it's best to lower your expectations about Christmas, that it's not going to be the way it was when you were a child, or somethng just out of a Currier and Ives print. "I think it's all about expectations and I think you're the only one you have to answer to. And so you need to ask yourself: is this really important? is this something I want to do, or am I living up to someone else's expectations," says Hanberry.
She says take it as it comes, and do what's important for you, and that could include going out with friends. Another way is to do some volunteer work during the Holidays by helping out those who are less fortunate, and won't have a Merry Christmas with presents galore.
It often seems like the Holidays are meant for children, with them getting toys or visiting with Santa. But Hanberry says Christmas can get overwhelming for kids. "I think it's really important in that case for mom and dad to limit the activities. If they can see that their kids are getting overwhelmed, then either don't see Santa or don't see Santa the third time," she says. "Limit the times you go out and go shopping. Maybe limit the number of presents."
And if you are feeling depressed during the Holidays, you can all 211 and speak with a counselor.