Category: Self-Acceptance

depression counseling

Managing Holiday Depression

“’Tis the season…” You probably know the rest. It seems there’s a general expectation that this last month of the year will be merry and bright. But those who struggle with depression know that it doesn’t go away just because it’s “the most wonderful time of the year.” In fact, all those good tidings of joy might actually worsen existing symptoms. After all, depression is a hard enough battle without society sending the message that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t feel the holiday joy. If you’re finding it even more difficult than usual to manage your depressive symptoms this holiday season, read on for some tips on self-care as well as advice on when to seek depression counseling.

Set realistic expectations

When depression sets in, it can take more energy than normal to do the things you need to do to get through the day. Daily activities like going to work, taking care of your kids, grocery shopping, and cleaning the house suddenly become exhausting chores. And sometimes some of them don’t even get done. That can make the added tasks of the holidays seem particularly daunting. It’s crucial, then, for those who are managing depression during this season to prioritize. Don’t expect yourself to do it all this year. Talk with your family about realistic expectations around all the holiday extras such as card-writing, decorating, gift-preparation, baking, and attending parties and other holiday events. Decide which are most meaningful to you and your family, and figure out where you can trim or even delegate some of the responsibility. The extra time you’ll have and the reduced stress you’ll feel will go a long way toward keeping depressive symptoms from worsening during this hectic season.

Tune out some of the holiday “noise”

It’s inescapable this time of the year: the holiday music playing in all the stores, the movies showing on all the cable channels, and the endless ads on TV, the radio, and in print. It’s hard to ignore, and bright and merry as it is, it reinforces the belief that it’s a happy time of the year for everyone. But if you’re struggling with depression, it simply may not feel that way. Because depression can lead to increased feelings of guilt, anyway, why should you also feel guilty that you’re not as happy as you should be this season? You have control over how many of these holiday messages you take in, so why not consider limiting them? Be a critical consumer of all the seasonal “noise” that’s thrown your way this season. If the holiday music or movies lift your mood, immerse yourself in them. If, on the other hand, the store ads leave you feeling guilty about lacking the energy to do all the shopping this year, watch commercial-free movies instead. If you’re struggling with depression, you know that your baseline mood on most days is lower than normal. Give it a little extra TLC this season by structuring your holiday media intake with that in mind.

Seek depression counseling

So far, we’ve identified a couple of self-care techniques to manage depression this holiday season. They both involve setting limits in order to lift your mood and allow more time for the self-care that is so vital to staving off depressive symptoms. And if you’ve grappled with depression for any length of time, you probably already have other self-care habits in place that help. But if you find that it’s particularly difficult to continue managing it on your own, think about depression counseling as an additional option. Find a professional you feel comfortable with, whether it’s a psychologist, counselor, social worker, or clergy member, and let them share in your efforts to combat depression. Proper depression counseling can supplement the hard work you do every day to keep those depressive symptoms in check. And counselors’ understanding can help you normalize the challenges of finding the holiday joy when depression rears its head.


Self-Acceptance: The Cornerstone of Maturity

by Jim Kelly

The following is an excerpt on the significance of self-acceptance drawn from the book, How to Be the Adult in the Room, authored by one of our therapists, Jim Kelly. You can purchase this book through Amazon. This book is also available for purchase in our office.

In the privacy of my office, even highly successful people regularly admit deep insecurities, which rob them of peace and happiness. In fact, in many cases their achievements are driven by the desire to prove themselves. Yet, their achievements never satisfy the deeper need to feel whole for just being who they are.

When I work on the issue of self-acceptance with clients, I help them identify and validate aspects of who they are in the following areas:

  • Inherent personality traits
  • Natural abilities
  • True interests
  • True values and principles
  • Honest thoughts and feelings
  • Direction and purpose

Deborah was in her late twenties and struggled with chronic anxiety and anorexia—a very complex issue. In my experience, anorexia is usually symptomatic of a few predicable themes—perfectionism, achievement, and control, though what I typically find at the heart of the problem is an undeveloped sense of self. This young woman, who was a nurse, exhibited these patterns. Her compliant personality oriented her as a child to take her cues from other people and to try to please them. Her parents divorced when she was young, and she lost close contact with her father. She grew up longing to feel closer and more loved by her father, which undermined her self-worth.

Deborah’s personality also predisposed her to strive to be in control. As she grew up, these factors coalesced to work against her. Along the way, she became deeply insecure, and her maladaptive response was to try to be perfect to win outside approval and validation. She always made straight A-s in school and graduated at the top of her nursing class. Yet, she never felt good enough. She was an excellent nurse, but constantly compared herself to peers and would look for evidence to find herself lacking. On the outside, she appeared to have it all together. On the inside, she was a train wreck. This is where anorexia came in. Like many women in our culture who feel insecure with themselves and out of control internally, she focused on controlling and perfecting her body to gain a sense of self-worth and control. The psychological reward gained by achieving this essentially unhealthy thinness is, of course, fleeting, illusory, and never satisfying.

The only real solution was for Deborah to decide that who she was had little to do with her body, her achievements, and the approval of others. While she was gaining an awareness of the elements of who she was, she had to learn how to accept, listen to, validate, be guided by , and trust her true self—not a simple process. She had to completely re-orient herself from taking cues from others to finding and trusting her own center. As she developed a more authentic sense of her own identity and learned to trust and accept herself, she began to feel more secure internally. This internal sense of control allowed her to start shedding, little by little, the need to be perfect. She began to accept her own flawed, limited, imperfect human nature, including her body. Her anxiety began to resolve as she was able to validate her own competency, stop comparing herself to the other nurses, and enjoy her work. Deborah must continue to practice this higher consciousness, but she’s clearly on the path.

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Managing Holiday Depression

“’Tis the season…” You probably know the rest. It seems there’s a general expectation that this last month of the …