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Coping with holiday blues — Caring for ourselves and others during the festive period

As 2020 comes to an end and people are engaged in celebrations and gatherings with family and friends during the holiday season, it is crucial to recognise that there are people who experience symptoms similar to those of clinical depression.

Coping with holiday blues — Caring for ourselves and others during the festive period
Jonathan Kuek Han Loong

As 2020 comes to an end and people are engaged in celebrations and gatherings with family and friends during the holiday season, it is crucial to recognise that there are people who experience symptoms similar to those of clinical depression.

In particular, individuals who are coping with painful circumstances such as the death of loved ones, financial difficulties, the end of a relationship or a lack of close social connections, for example. These are the people who may be more susceptible to such “holiday blues”.

With Covid-19 still rampant in many parts of the world and crowd control measures still very much a part of life in Singapore, we can expect a more significant number of people who may feel alienated and isolated.

Many holiday plans have gone awry, social gatherings are more subdued and toned down, and emotions still run strong in response to having to adapt to a new normal.

Even going out for a nice meal may not feel the same as it used to feel.

To care for the people around you during this “new” festive period, a good start could be to identify the source of stressors that you may be facing — by reflecting upon past holiday seasons.

Make a list, if needed, highlighting some key stressors and how you tend to respond to them.

Once you have done so, begin to plan activities you would like to do during this period that may help you manage your stressors better.

For example, if loneliness plays a big part in bringing your mood down and you cannot turn to family or friends for support, consider signing up for social activities such as volunteering at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter.  

For people around us who may be struggling during this period, make a conscious effort to check in more frequently with them. Especially since we are unable to gather in large groups, there may be certain people who may feel left out of the celebrations and forgotten.

One way is to gather in small groups and use online means to have “larger” gatherings.

Having communal support and good company are strong buffers against negative feelings during the holiday season.

Most importantly, if you feel that none of the suggestions above are working and you cannot identify what works, you should seek support from a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist or counsellor.

They will be well-placed to support you during such challenging times and there is absolutely no shame in seeking help.  

Staying social connected, identifying what works, reaching out to people around you, and seeking help when needed are integral to staying one step ahead of the holiday blues and supporting others in the process.

Let us continue to stay in good spirits despite the whirlwind of a year it has been. 

 

ABOUT THE WRITER

Jonathan Kuek Han Loong is a doctoral candidate and mental health researcher at the University of Sydney, specialising in recovery approaches to the management and understanding of mental health conditions. His research is based in Singapore. The views in this article are his own.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

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depression holiday mental health isolation

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