How I Cope with Christmas Depression Every Year
Straight from an expert who knows a thing or two about grief.
For years, Kim Libertini hated Christmas. After her partner tragically passed away from cardiac arrest during the holidays in 2015, the mother of two and high school science teacher from Huntington, New York, couldn't help but associate the "jolliest" time of year with one of the most painful moments of her life. With each passing year, those painful feelings would surfaced, and they'd be compounded by the profound loneliness she felt.
But fast forward to today, and Libertini doesn't just survive the holiday season, but she manages to thrive in it. She's so good at managing her Christmas-related depression, in fact, that this year she—along with her friend Robynne Boyd—launched an app called Goodgrief, which offers users a social network platform to share their grief and eventually overcome obstacles associated with grief-related depression.
Here we've collected Libertini's personal tips (in her own words) for conquering the darkest hours of December. So read on, and remember that if the winter blues strike you, that you're not alone. And if you find that the holidays are particularly stressful, be sure to check out these 17 Top Tips from Psychologists for Dealing with Holiday Stress.
Stick to a morning routine.
Holidays scream "loss" for me. I got the call that my grandmother had died as I was sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner one year. A year later, my dad passed away a few days before Thanksgiving. A divorced mother of two, with my mom also gone, I had no family left. (My new life partner passed away in 2015.) For the past ten years, holidays have been a struggle, to say the least.
To better prepare myself to embrace a happier outlook each and every day, I wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get to an Orange Theory Fitness class by 5:00 a.m. every day to grab a daily dose of endorphins. I have found submerging myself in workouts is one of the best escapes from the emotions of grief. And for more ways to maintain your level of zen throughout the holiday season, be wary of these 15 Biggest Holiday Depression Triggers You Never Even Knew About.
Find a comforting place to reflect.
It's easy to fall into the dark depths of depression during this time of year. It's deeply emotional and the loneliness can be extremely painful. Over the years, I have learned what things work best for me as I navigate loss during the holidays. It's absolutely key to have a time and place to rewind.
I have my morning coffee at the beach by my house. I use this time to reflect on where I have been and how far I have come. Memories can be tough to recall in front of others. These moments by myself are a time to let out my emotions and help keep me together in front of my children.
Find a sympathetic friend.
I send a text and share how I'm feeling with a friend that understands. I, like many, have lost some friends along the grief path. The friends in my life right now are the ones who understand how difficult life can be for me during the holidays. Many of them understand grief firsthand so I know it is okay to share my sadness or struggles with them. I need that reminder that I am not alone.
In those moments, when I was feeling isolated and alone in my losses, I knew that Robynne was always just a text away to offer sweet, gentle words of support, understanding, and comfort. When I wasn't comfortable sharing sad thoughts with the people in my everyday life, Robynne was there. She was the hand to reach to when I needed to be pulled back up. For me, the arrival of the holidays places a spotlight on my loss of family and partner; my emotions surface more quickly and I feel more of the absence of the ones I lost. Robynne's texting friendship provided a safe place for me to be open about my sadness.
Book a last-minute trip.
I book a last minute travel deal to the Dominican Republic, or a city in Europe that's on my bucket list. A little sunshine or busy travel help keep my spirits up, help me to step away from the loneliness of home and give me something to focus my energy on.
Treat a lonely holiday like any other day.
If travel is not in the cards, but I am alone for the holiday, I pretend it is a regular day and make a list of tasks that I need to get done.
Give your mind a break.
If I wake up and the holiday seems too daunting, or I'm without my children for the day, I give myself the okay to make it a day to binge on a Netflix series in bed.
Set aside time for spontaneity.
On some days when it's truly needed, I schedule pampering with a manicure or pedicure, a massage, or a new haircut. Self-care is so important to elevate your mood. If I look better, I feel better.
Reflect on happier times.
I tell stories to my children about holiday cooking with my mom. These are warm memories that I cherish. It feels good to share a piece of who my mom was with my sons. And for more ways to combat your winter blues, check out these 30 Best Ways to Fight Seasonal Depression.
Find relief in music.
Finally, when I find alone time, I play "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten as loud as I can while driving alone. It is one of those songs that remind me of who I am, what I've been through, and convinces me that I will get through anything.
Take solace in alone time.
Sometimes being submerged in everything "holiday" is just too much. I have to step away and take time to be by myself and read.
Find your own way to cope.
I have learned that everyone will tell you what to do to survive loss during the holidays, but there is not right or wrong. Just do it your way. That way may change as you move down that road of grief and that is okay.
Find words to live by.
Steal this mantra: To survive your grief, you must find your grit.
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