How Do We Deal With Those Holiday Blues by Keith Niager, LCSW
Although the holidays are supposed to be a time full of joy, good cheer and optimistic hopes for a new year, many people experience seasonal “blues.”
What’s important to know is that there are steps you can take to help beat the blues this holiday season. The “holiday blues” can be caused by many factors: increased stress and fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization and the inability to be with one’s family. The increased demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, and house guests also contribute to these feelings of tension. Even people who do not become depressed can develop other stress reactions during the holidays, such as headaches, excessive drinking, overeating and difficulty sleeping.
Although many people become depressed during the holiday season, even more, respond to the excessive stress and anxiety once the holidays have passed. This post-holiday letdown can be the result of emotional disappointments experienced during the preceding months, as well as the physical reactions caused by excess fatigue and stress.
So how do you minimize and cope with the holiday blues?
- Have an “escape plan” if you feel trapped. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed it is good to have a “code word”. For example, if the code word is milk and bread: “I’m going to the store to pick up some milk and bread”. What you are really saying to your spouse or loved one is, I’m stressed out, I need a break, I’m going to the store for some downtime and I may take the long route to get there! If you want them to go with you, ask. You may want them along to talk or you may want to be alone.
- Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable by not trying to make the holiday “the best ever.” Set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the most important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
- Remember that the holiday season does not automatically banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely. There is room for these feelings to be present, even if you choose not to express them.
- Don’t overstay your visit. Leave on a high note
- Do something for someone else. It is an old remedy, but it can help. Try volunteering some time to help others.
- Enjoy holiday activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations. Go window shopping without buying anything.
- Don’t drink too much. Excessive drinking will only make you more depressed.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a way you have not done before.
- Spend time with people who are supportive and who care about you. Reach out to make new friends if you are alone during special times. Contact someone with whom you have lost touch.
- Find time for yourself. Don’t spend all of your time providing activities for your family and friends.
I hope these suggestions will help you to have an enjoyable Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years!