Dealing With Depression: Keep it Small

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben

Yay, it’s the holidays! Christmas has to be my favourite time of the year, for the sheer magic of it, the lights, the beautiful people dressed in their nicest clothes, the good food, and of course, the presents (one of my most important love languages.) Since it’s so important to me, and I really want to get it right, the holidays are usually also a major source of stress: will there be enough food? Will people like it? Is the room nice enough? Will everyone enjoy their presents? I can feel the anxiety rear its head at just typing these sentences.

But this year I have another guest who joins the party, though uninvited (or do we, subconsciously, welcome it into our lives? That’s for another one of my musings…): my depression didn’t just take a break for the Christmas vacation. I’m happy to say that due to the business of the vacation time with the children, it hasn’t had a lot of space to take up in my mind, but it has had a large impact on my energy. Whereas I normally have a pretty big share in organizing the festivities (control freak anyone?), this year, the people around me have stepped in where I couldn’t and have offered to organize, mostly my mother and my partner.

Not having the energy to contribute much means that the festivities are somewhat smaller than they usually are, but not having the anxiety around them means I’m able to enjoy them as well, which is tricky when depressed. For myself, I keep the things I do small. I try out a small dish here and there. I keep present-giving simple and just make sure I have a fitting present for the ones I’m shopping for.

Keeping my actions and projects small is the only way of ensuring I can see them through these days, which helps limit frustration. It also makes it easier to pause after each task and gauge where my energy is at so that I don’t completely overdo it and end up having to recuperate for the following week.

But perhaps the biggest advantage of keeping my plans and projects small is that it allows room for things to happen spontaneously. Christmas day wasn’t filled with a ton of food and visits, instead, we skyped with the grandparents in the U.S., watched two movies, played tag in the back yard and then Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit (which my children are crazy good at!) before dinner. Today we celebrated with my siblings and their families. It was busy, and at times loud, but also lovely. I made sure to take breaks and will go to bed early tonight, to balance overstimulation with the complementary rest.

When energy is in short supply, you learn to be really careful with it, and you learn, slowly but surely, not to feel guilty about what you can’t do. When you’re just not able to carry on as usual, it’s not so much a choice of whether you do what you usually do, but of how you cope with not being able to.

In the end, I hope I can show my children that just because you have to say no to some things, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy other things (or maybe I’m more so showing myself). And when it’s difficult to enjoy anything at all, like with most things in life, all you can do is start small.

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