October 29, 2020

Coping with Holiday Depression and Pandemic Fatigue

For many people, the holiday season is anything but happy. Instead, it can be a time filled with grief, loneliness, and stress. This year, those feelings of depression may be more prevalent due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the lack of family gatherings, events or even eating out at a restaurant, it is easy to feel very isolated. That coupled with loss of loved ones or a job due to coronavirus may drive people to unhealthy or harmful behaviors.

“It’s more important to find ways to stay connected this holiday season to ward off feelings of depression,” said Jim Serratt, executive director for the Center for Behavioral Health at St. Joseph Medical Center. “We won’t be able to do many of the things we normally do during this time of year, which is a great reason to be creative in coming up with new traditions or resurrecting old ones.”

While it cannot necessarily be together physically, there are different activities that we can do to feel closer to one another. Serratt suggests bringing back the lost art of sending holiday cards.

“Sending holiday cards doesn’t require getting together and may conjure up positive feelings of years past,” said Serratt.

Out of all the different self-care steps we can take during the holidays, the most important one is giving ourselves and others a break.

“Set realistic expectations for those and others. Be thankful for the things you do have, and ask for help when you need it,” he said.

For those already suffering from seasonal depression, they mustn’t fall back into bad habits. Keeping medical appointments, taking medications as prescribed, as well as exercising, eating right, and getting plenty of sleep are keys to staving off depression.

“The temptation to self-medicate using alcohol and drugs is always greater this time of year,” said Serratt. “You can’t rely on substances to bring you feelings of peace and joy.”

Those struggling with the ravages of addiction may want to seek help through Matthew’s Hope, a nonprofit organization that partners with St. Joseph Medical Center to provide medical detox, neurofeedback, and rehab for individuals suffering from substance abuse.

“The holiday season will be tougher than usual this year,” said Serratt. “Regardless of your situation, remember it’s only temporary, and brighter days are ahead.”