For many people, the most wonderful time of the year is slowly beginning: full of anticipation, presents are bought, the home is festively decorated and the Christmas menu is planned. The high expectations for the crowning finale of the year are also fueled by the media and social media: we are constantly confronted with the supposedly “perfect Christmas” – including glitter balls, candlelight, a feel-good atmosphere, expensive gifts, good food and “quality time” with the whole family.
If the first symptoms of stress are already appearing in you as you read the first paragraph – you are not alone! Anyone who has ever rushed through the crowded city on an Advent Saturday to find the last gift in a hurry probably knows what we’re talking about.
This well-known Christmas stress can affect any of us, but for people suffering from depression, it usually strikes even harder. The feast of festivities thus becomes an even greater challenge. Also for people who have few social contacts and suffer from loneliness, the Christmas season is associated with many worries. Let’s therefore take a look at the Christmas season from the perspective of people with depression and lonely people.
Sufferers of depression often suffer from feelings of guilt toward their loved ones during the holidays and want to be “merry,” at least on Christmas. This is exhausting, and moods can change in a split second: the wrong gift, the burnt food, the stern mother-in-law.
In addition to high expectations, there are other problems typical of depression. In addition to lack of drive and feeling less joy and interest, many sufferers have severe difficulty making decisions (Messer & Hermann, 2018). The many stimuli in the city flood the senses, the product selection is huge, time is pressing… The excessive demands can quickly lead to a kind of desperate paralysis of shock.
The assumption is obvious that the Christmas season is a trigger for depression. However, according to experts, there is no such connection and the resulting diagnosis of “Christmas depression”. Nevertheless, the phenomenon is off course known and much discussed.
There are the following explanations for Christmas depression: on the one hand, Christmas falls in the dark season in our latitudes and too little sunlight can lead to mood impairments. Well-known and proven is autumn and winter depression (also called seasonal depression). So Christmas depression could develop in the wake of fall and winter depression. Existing depression can also worsen around Christmas time.
Many people are also familiar with the phenomenon that the wet and cold winter only really hits the mood once the Christmas season and New Year’s Eve and the associated festivities are over. Here, experts sometimes speak of a “relief depression” that occurs when the pressure is off. The wet, cold and dark months of January, February and March can feel like they go on forever and can be quite depressing on the mood.
The Christmas season is also a difficult time for lonely people. With whom should the holidays be spent? How to prevent the ceiling from falling on your head at home alone?
Loneliness can affect anyone. Current figures show that one in ten Germans over the age of 45 feels lonely (German Center for Gerontology). But younger people can also be lonely, because the reasons for loneliness are many and varied. Deaths of partners or family members, moving to foreign cities, little free time in which to meet new people or unemployment are only some of the reasons why one can feel lonely.
Around Christmas time, the feeling of loneliness intensifies, because the desire is often huge to spend these days in the circle of family and friends. To conjure up a great Christmas menu for yourself and decorate the Christmas tree is then not perceived as beautiful, but always reminds only of their own loneliness.
Important to know: Loneliness and its consequences
We humans are social beings and need contact with other people for our well-being. Therefore, loneliness is a problem for both our mental and physical health. On a psychological level, loneliness can promote depression and dementia and be a reason for suicide (Spitzer, 2016). On a physical level, loneliness can exacerbate chronic diseases or promote cardiovascular disease due to lack of exercise.
You notice, the Christmas season does not bring only beautiful things. What can we do? Whether we are healthy, suffer from depression or are lonely, we can still make the days a little more relaxed, beautiful and calm with a few tips and tricks.