How to keep the Holiday Blues at bay

It’s that time of year again where you have to prepare for the upcoming holidays and be involved in some activity you would just as soon not be.  I am not so sure about you, but I recall last year asking my husband if we could skip sending out cards to alleviate a little of the hustle and bustle of this busy time of year.  Of course, he said, “no” because he thought it necessary to spread his holiday cheer to our closest family and friends.  Somehow, we did find the time to send out those cards.

This time of year seems to contribute to increased feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness and loneliness and often, it ‘s hard to manage these overwhelming feelings without stretching ourselves beyond our limitations.

You’re not a kid anymore

Whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hannukah, this time of year often brings up strong memories of childhood that for many, were happy, warm, exciting times.  As we grow into adulthood, it seems we hold onto those stored memories and may anticipate some or much of the same experiences we had back then.  Of course, the people are different – we are now with our nuclear family, not necessarily our family of origin. Although it may still include them as our aging parents who now require our care rather than the other way around. But, the roles are very different and so are our expectations.  We are now busy cooking, shopping, baking, decorating and planning rather than blissfully enjoying a magical season.

What about those of us who have lost close family members or loved ones within the past year?  It is a new and very different experience, with the now, empty chair at the table, silence instead of tears of joy or laughter, and maybe a visit to the cemetery or old homestead.  For some, there might be a need to establish some new traditions to replace former ones that included those who have passed on. Or it may still be too painful to be in the same home without that person. You might need a new place for the season’s celebrations.

Less money, sunlight, and companionship

Financial pressures associated with the economic downturn, underemployment or unemployment can impact our expectations of what we think we should be able to spend.  Not being able to purchase what we want can contribute to a sense of loss, disappointment or depression.

The change in decreased sunlight at the end of the day can also impact us and contribute to a condition commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Making a concerted effort to get outside and soak up some sunlight can impact you in positive ways, not to mention the increased vitamin D you get from the sun. But, still wear appropriate sunscreen.

Loneliness can be a major factor which contributes to significant depression for some, particularly the elderly who may not have family following the loss of their spouse.  Attending a support group, speaking with your doctor about the benefits of medication, or contacting a local church that may be able to provide resources at this difficult time can help you.

However, you plan to celebrate the holidays, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Try to not overschedule yourself by doing more than what is reasonable.  It is ok to decline some of those holiday party invitations. Spending a quiet evening at home might be more productive to re-energize your body and mind.
  2. Be careful to not overindulge in alcohol as more than a few drinks could impair your senses and reinforce the need to have a designated driver.  You can always request to spend the night with close family or friends or call a cab if you have had too much to drink.  Remember, alcohol is a depressant, and while it may initially give you a boost in your energy level or self-confidence,  you will eventually come down, sometimes with a not so enjoyable hangover.
  3. Volunteer your services, wrap a boxed gift for an underprivileged child, serve food at a soup kitchen or volunteer at your church or a local charity.  The opportunities abound at this time of year, even if it means dropping a few dollars into the Salvation Army red kettle.
  4. While gift giving is enjoyable and fun for many, the spending of money for those on tight budgets can be quite stressful.  Consider making your gifts by baking cookies, making cookie mix mason jars with ready to mix ingredients, making hand-made jewelry, hand-made cards, or other simple craft items.  Most people will appreciate the time you took to make something special with your hands.  Plus, it is an excellent way to save money and discover a new talent you may not know you had.
  5. Try to establish a new tradition for your family this year by using a menorah, Advent wreath, or other activity that may help your family reflect on the spiritual aspects of the season and feelings of hope and joy as you look to the New Year.

Follow these tips and you will be able to manage the holiday blues.

I want to wish you a blessed, happy and healthy holiday season and a wonderful, prosperous New Year!

Linda Cook

Photo courtesy of Eric Skiff under Creative Commons License. The image was cropped.