10 Ways to Help Avoid the Holiday Blues
Suggestions to help offset or better handle holiday challenges
Roseville, California — The six weeks that include Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s — collectively called the “holidays” — are most of the time a unique period of the year.
But for many, the holidays bring mischief. Caused by factors including weather, a breakup, death, stress, unrealistic expectations, excessive emotion, guilt, or overspending, holiday depression—also called the “holiday blues”—joy can overwhelm even the most wonderful time of the year.
Holiday depression affects one million people each year. Men and women, young and old, are all falling victim to feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiety, guilt, and exhaustion during this emotionally charged season.
The Men’s Health Network offers 10 suggestions to help you identify and stave off potential sources of holiday depression — or at least manage them better.
Admit that you are hurting
Others may expect certain attitudes and behaviors from you that you may not feel. The “holiday hype” in the retail industry presents an overly sentimental, nostalgic, and even fanciful idea of the holidays (usually to try to sell you something). However, feelings of sadness, loneliness, or depression don’t automatically go away just because it’s the holidays. Acknowledge your pain, be open and honest with others, deny guilt, and get help if needed. It’s okay to laugh! do not worry! You will not be shocked by a lightning bolt for laughter!
Create a plan to deal with your feelings
Try to surround yourself with people who care and support you – your family, friends, or church members. Invest in an exercise program (aerobic activities such as walking, running, cycling, etc. are recommended due to their ability to improve mood). If necessary, see your doctor or therapist. And learn to say “no”. Other people’s expectations are not a reason for your mental health to suffer.
Set realistic expectations
Keep your expectations realistic, not perfect. Prioritize and reduce self-preparations for the holidays. Delegate responsibilities. Realistic plans for your budget, spending and shopping. Do less and enjoy more. Obsessing over the infinite detail is sure to transform this long-awaited, once a year season from a time of abundance to a time of exhaustion. Make it a point to be honest with yourself and, if necessary and possible, limit the time and situations/people you want to be around. When you’ve had enough of either, make sure you have a way to leave or walk away.
Take your time for yourself
Why is it called Holiday depression? Because for most people, these feelings don’t occur at other times of the year. Remind yourself of what you enjoyed during the previous months, and then pick it up during the holidays. Make yourself a priority! Instead of a “double discount discount,” give yourself a “double emotional check.” Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Just don’t stay there too long! Getting enough rest, eating and drinking in moderation, exercising, and continuing other favorite activities can maintain normalcy, routine, control, and predictability.
Keep in mind that your depression may be due to this time of year
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is caused by decreased exposure to sunlight — which is exactly what happens during the holiday season when daylight hours are shorter. Consult your doctor to see if light therapy may be beneficial for you.
Soup kitchens, homeless shelters, nursing homes, churches, and dozens of other organizations can always use volunteers, especially at critical times of the year. In addition, you will benefit from the company of other people around you rather than being alone. Help others help you! Tell your loved ones what you do or don’t need from them. They often don’t know how to help, or what to say, but they want to.
Perfect families don’t magically appear during the holidays, but family rifts can. “Letting go” and forgiveness can help heal past wounds. Additionally, family feuds can be deliberately set aside until after high-stress vacations in order to facilitate peace and enjoyment for everyone at this special time.
Start your own traditions
Families and traditions change over time. (Every tradition has to start somewhere!) Instead of remembering the “good old days,” accept the fact that change may be necessary, understand the season as it is now, look to the future, and create your family traditions that can be enjoyed and even preserved for future generations.
Keep your alcohol intake low
Do not pour gasoline on the fire. Remember that alcohol has a depressing effect on your nervous system, so if you’re suffering from the holiday blues, drinking too much alcohol will only make your depression worse.
Rededicate yourself to your spirituality
The “reason for the season” is often swallowed up by insane materialism that can distract from the history, meaning, and significance of the holiday celebrations. Step back, slow down, and refocus on the eternal, transcendent. Rededicate yourself to spiritual pursuits, such as church attendance, church work, a life of prayer, and other disciplines. Restore the focus you originally intended for this time of year.
Alphonso Gibbs, Jr., LCSW-C, LICSW
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