Defeating Depression This Winter

 In depression, emotions

“You’re neurotic.”

My poor husband just sat shaking his head as I quite literally zipped all over the house, obsessively removing any decorative items that I had so lovingly placed there just weeks before in an effort to get our home looking like a winter wonderland. I mostly ignored his protests as I became possessed with the need to un-decorate our house in record time. I was a woman on a mission and I was ready to get this thing done.

Oh, and did I mention the date and time of this de-Christmas-ing? Yeah, it was December 25 around 8:00 PM.

Look, I’m not really sure what set off the ever-pressing need to take down the Christmas decorations on Christmas. I can vaguely remember thoughts going through my mind like, “This is going to be so great. I’ll have the house clean and still a whole extra week of break to just enjoy without this looming over me!” Looking back, though, I can sheepishly admit that it’s a little neurotic to take down the Christmas decorations on Christmas Day.

By December 26, our once sparkling Christmas tree lay on the curb, ready to be hauled off to it’s final destination. The house was back to normal, not a trace of Christmas left. Suddenly, it hit me. A crippling feeling of depression revealed it’s life-draining claws and began it’s assault on my senses. I felt cold, anxious, and isolated. It was as if the Christmas decorations had taken with them that beautiful sense of hope that had permeated my heart during the month of December.

This isn’t a new feeling to me. I even wrote about a similar case of “the winter blues” back on this blog in early 2011. It still manages to surprise me, though, how this time of year can so automatically cause me to feel certain feelings, simply by a jump from one page on the calendar to another.

The good news this winter if you’re feeling a little down (or a lot down!), is that we have certain tools, both practical and spiritual, that can help us overcome these crippling emotions. Here’s a few tips that I’m implementing in my everyday life even now to try to keep my head above the waves of impending depression:

  1. Plan for the new year. I think a lot of the sadness that the passing of Christmas tends to bring comes from the sense that so many of the amazing things we awaited are now over. When we look toward things that will be joyful and purpose-filled and are still to come in the new year, we realize that each and every day can be a celebration and that the best is, indeed, yet to come.
  2. Don’t do life alone. If I’m honest, part of my struggle with seasonal depression comes from the fact that many that I love seem to move on without me after the holidays. My kids go back to school, my husband goes back to work, and family that we don’t see throughout the year return to their homes. That just leaves me, still at the no-longer-Christmas-y house, feeling left behind and alone. But I’m never alone. I don’t just mean that in a spiritual way, although, that is, of course, the most blessed assurance that I have, knowing my God is with me whenever and wherever. But I have also discovered that there are other people, just like me, who are also home feeling those same things that I am feeling. When we get together, it dispels the darkness of isolation and helps keep the sadness at bay.
  3. Don’t feed the feelings. I say this with all empathy as a recovering feeling-feeder. I used to assume that if I felt something, it must be real, and deserved all my energy and thought. I’d wind up feeding that feeling all my effort until it became far bigger than when it began. Now, I’ve come to realize, with God’s help, that only the things I feed will grow, and there are ways to starve the unwelcome feelings. When those first inclinations toward sadness and depression come, say no (like, actually, verbally). Lift your eyes to Jesus and stand on what He says, despite what your feelings are telling you.

You’re not alone this winter and there is hope! Do you have experience with seasonal depression or the “winter blues”? Let us know some things that have helped you in the comments below!

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