Keep in mind that there are no quick fixes (and certainly not in time for Thanksgiving this year). It generally takes at least a month of taking medication to make a difference and many more months of psychotherapy to learn how to handle depression and prevent it from dominating one’s life. But even knowing that someone has begun treatment can help both that individual and the family. There’s some comfort to be found it knowing that someone is finally doing something about the problem.

Tips for Managing Unhappy or Depressed Relatives

Regardless of whether an unhappy or depressed relative is in treatment, he or she can still make the day less than enjoyable for everyone else. Here are some tried and true ideas for preventing one person’s negativity from ruining everyone else’s day:

  • Find compassion within yourself for this person. 
    After all, here is someone who is partaking of the emotional feast that holidays offer and is still starving for compassionate attention. Do offer your heartfelt sympathy. Don’t get into an argument about whether the person really has things to be thankful for—it’s pointless. Even if he or she can acknowledge the truth of it, it won’t help him or her feel any better—and, pretty soon, you’re in an argument!
  • Strategize ahead of time.
    It’s not new information that so-and-so is critical and impossible. Think about ways you can excuse yourself from the situation when you need a breather. (There’s always the bathroom.)Talk to other family members about taking turns being the ear for the difficult relative. (It’s unfair to let anyone bear the brunt of it for a whole day.) Arrange ahead of time to have a distraction or two available. How about a new jigsaw puzzle to work on or new board game for everyone to play while waiting for dinner? How about a family-friendly video?
  • It’s hard to be active and depressed.
    Organize a hike or a walk after dinner. Touch football, raking the leaves, or tumbling with little kids is incompatible with the blues. Exercise releases endorphins, the natural antidote to depression.

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Managing Unhappy Relatives During the Holiday Season
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