Across the nation, the Christmas holiday season is considered to be one of the happiest times of the year. Many will celebrate this festive occasion with their family and friends, enjoying holiday staples such as eggnog and sweet potato pie, while listening to aunts and uncles narrate tales from childhood. However, for someone struggling with depression, the holiday season can actually exacerbate their mental health challenges. For those who are not struggling with any mental health disorders, the holiday season can still elevate stress levels. So imagine how someone with depression feels during this time of the year.

 

“When one of the expectations of the holidays is to be “happy,” there is a 100% chance of failure for the person with depression.”

 

Stressors exhaust more of our time and finances, to shop for the “perfect” gifts, and create the “perfect” home environment for guests. If someone with depression has any addictions, abuse, trauma, or other related issues affecting their family, these issues create a heightened emotional burden for their already fragile spirit. When someone has depression, constant feelings of sadness, inadequacy, unworthiness, and alienation consume their thought life.

 

Did You Know?

  • More than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide
  • More women are affected by depression than men
  • Depression can lead to suicide

 

Man sitting on bench outside looking depressed, struggling with depression

With millions of people struggling with depression, chances are that someone close to you is also suffering. Do you think that you could recognize the symptoms of someone struggling with depression?

 

Here are some depression symptoms to look out for that do not subside within a few weeks.

Emotional Symptoms Include:

  • Extreme irritability
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Constant rumination on the past or on things that have gone wrong
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Physical Symptoms Include:

 

If someone you know has exhibited any of the above symptoms, here are some practical ways that you can conduct a mental hygiene check to help them feel better during the holidays.

 

3 Practical Ways to Help Someone Struggling with Depression:

 

1. Call and/or Visit

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One of the most practical actions you can take to offer support is one that requires only time, a compassionate heart, and a prayerful spirit. It’s easy to forget to call and/or visit our family and friends when our hectic schedules demand our undivided attention. However, a 15- to 30-minute phone call and/or visit can mean the world to someone struggling with depression. Let them know that you care and are available to listen to them without judgment. There’s power in simply listening and acknowledging the person’s feelings.

Additionally, be sure to offer positive reinforcement, reminding them of all the great qualities that you admire in them. A meaningful phone call and/or visit to a person struggling with depression is a great mental hygiene check that could potentially save their life.

 

2. Create a Low-stress Environment

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When someone is struggling with depression, simple tasks, including scheduling time for general household chores and meal preparation, as well as activities like exercise and sleep can seem overwhelming, which is known to exacerbate the person’s depression symptoms. By volunteering to help the person with scheduling and organizational needs, you are helping them create a low-stress environment. Offer to help them run errands or help them declutter their home. For the latter, helping someone declutter their home and gather items for donating to those in need can be therapeutic for the mind.

Or, you could even offer to help the person discover new inspiration for their current home décor. There’s no need to go out and buy expensive furnishings. A new aesthetic could be accomplished by refreshing current items in an exciting way. Whatever you decide to do, remember that it’s all about helping the person feel more in control of their schedule and their environment.

 

3. Cultivate a Support System

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There are a myriad of great mental health organizations that offer professional services and resources for people struggling with depression. If someone you know has depression, it’s imperative that the person understands that you are in their corner, cheering and praying for them. Depression can make the person feel as though they are in a dark, hopeless world all by themselves. One way that you can illuminate their view is by helping them cultivate a support system. This includes mental health organizations, community therapy groups, the local church and its counseling center, and compassionate family members and friends.

 

Additionally, this is a wonderful opportunity to educate yourself about various mental health challenges that millions face, including depression. Referring back to the second action item on our list – creating a low-stress environment – you can offer to facilitate structure in the person’s life by aiding in scheduling regular meetings and appointments with therapy groups, etc., for them. In this way, you’re helping to expand their mental health support system, especially during the holidays.

 

Today, we encourage you to carve time out of your holiday schedule to lend an ear to someone struggling with depression. Remember, a 15- to 30-minute phone call and/or visit could help lift their spirit. With the compassionate spirit of Jesus Christ in your heart, it’s imperative to avoid minimizing or shaming their feelings. Make a genuine effort to listen without judging anything that they share with you, as they are allowing themselves to be vulnerable with you. You want them to understand that their feelings, as well as their lives matter.

 

Help them create a low-stress environment. Offer to help them with any scheduling and/or organizational needs, including finding great mental health services in their community, setting up therapy appointments, or decluttering their home. Cultivate a support system to include trusted, compassionate family members and friends, as well as mental health organizations and groups that will help them thrive along their life’s journey. So, take a long walk, go see a movie or play, pray, and enjoy some relaxing art therapy, together.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you.” 

– 2 Thessalonians 3:16

If you suspect that someone you know is suicidal, please do not hesitate to check on them. Whether you talk to them in person or over the phone, let them know that you care about their well-being, and are willing to help them find safe, professional mental health services. If the person is exhibiting signs that they are in immediate danger to themselves, such as talking about wanting to die or kill themselves, please encourage them to call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at 1.800.273.8255. Or, you can call the phone number for them and a representative will walk you through the appropriate next steps to keep them safe.

 beautiful-woman-brunette-face-1638400As we take time to enjoy our family and friends, let’s remember to shine the light of Jesus Christ on our neighbors, coworkers, and anyone we meet. This holiday season is not about having the “perfect” Christmas celebration. So, avoid putting unnecessary stress on you and your family and friends to do so. There will inevitably be times when you disagree with your family and friends; it’s okay to agree to disagree. If you’ve searched every department store to find the “perfect” gift to no avail, again, don’t put undue pressure on yourself. During this holiday season, remember to be a great steward of your finances and stick to a healthy budget.

After all, we celebrate Christmas to praise God for the birth of our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ. Today’s gift-giving practice is in remembrance of how the Three Wise Men visited Jesus, after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, for they acknowledged that Jesus Christ is the most magnificent gift of all!

 

We pray that these practical ways to help someone struggling with depression will be beneficial to you and your family and friends this holiday season. With the proper education and resources about mental health, we can disrupt unhealthy, unproductive conversations that further perpetuate stigmas associated with mental health, particularly in the Christian community. On behalf of The Potter’s House family, may you experience an abundance of peace and joy during this holiday season. And, remember that you are not alone. May the presence of God overflow in your spirit, for He absolutely adores you.

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

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Wishing You and Your Family a Merry Christmas!

 

Mental Health Resources:



Written by: The Potter's House

December 23, 2018