Now that we are fully into the Holidays, the most magical time of the year, an interesting phenomenon occurs; everything we believe, fear, hope for and regret, regarding family, traditions, memories, love, romance and life in general, awakens like a sleeping giant.
Have you ever noticed how many people are depressed during the Holidays?
It’s supposed to be the happiest of times, full of Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kincade-esque scenes of togetherness, good cheer and touching moments, all frosted with a touch of Disney magic.
In order to make your holidays really fabulous, and ring in the New Year, (OMG 2020 already!?!), unscathed, the first thing to do is look at some of the causes of those old “Holiday Blues” and adopt as many of the solutions as you can.
Holiday Blues can affect both men and women, young and old. Even your pets may show signs of stress or unusual behaviors.
Contributing factors include:
Increased stress and fatigue
Too much in-your-face commercialization
The inability to be with family or close friends
The increased demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, and houseguests may also contribute to tension and sadness during the holidays.
Common stress reactions during the Holidays include:
Excessive drinking/drug use
Over-eating or not eating enough
Anger and/or frustration
Don’t let all the pressures of shopping, coordinating social functions, negotiating family issues and missing lost loved ones overwhelm you this season. There are a number of things you can do to keep stress, anxiety and depression under control.
Keep holiday expectations realistic. It's natural to have holiday-related expectations about housekeeping, gift giving/receiving, decorating, food, and visiting with friends and family. Examine your personal expectations and priorities, individually and as a family. Look at these carefully and ask yourself, “Are these realistic? Or Sane?”
It's probably not realistic to expect to give every loved one “the perfect gift.” Gifts from the heart don’t need to be either expensive or elaborate. A very dear friend & I started giving experiences not things; a hand-written coupon for a spa day together, a day of BFF time, an evening of babysitting, etc. How many Manolos do we really need?? Seriously?? Gifts from the heart create lifelong memories. Now that’s priceless!
While occasional holiday feasts are wonderful, is taking the hours necessary to create it really necessary this year? Would a self-serve tray stocked with a variety of breads, sweets, meats, cheeses, veggies and dip do as well? What about a ‘Moveable Feast’ where the party moves from one friend’s house to another for each course? How about a ‘Bring your Favorite Holiday Dish’ themed Potluck? The options are endless and you’ll enjoy the gathering so much more!
Spend time with people who are supportive and who love and/or care about you – you want to be enlivened and walk away feeling wonderful and emotionally recharged. Reach out and make new friends if you are alone during these and other special times. Contact someone you’ve lost touch with and set-up a lunch or Happy Hour date.
Tips from the CDC, the American Psychological Association and the National Mental Health Association:
Establish realistic goals and expectations for the holiday season, and do not label the holiday season as a time to cure all past problems. The holidays do not prevent sadness or loneliness.
Limit your drinking/drug use.
Do not feel obliged to feel festive. Accept your inner experience and don’t force yourself to express specific feelings. If you have recently experienced a tragedy, death, or romantic breakup, tell people about your needs.
To relieve holiday stress, know your spending limit and stick to it. Enjoy holiday activities that are free, such as driving around looking at holiday decorations. Go window-shopping without buying anything. Find out where the Carolers/Choirs are and go see their Christmas shows.
Express your feelings to those around you in a constructive, honest, considerate and open way.
Delegate. Don’t try to do it all by yourself. People often want to help and to be involved. By breaking down tasks and doling them out to friends and family, everything becomes more manageable.
Spend some time alone. Some people love the energy and exuberance of big holiday parties and activities. For others, all of it is very taxing. If you find yourself getting a little anxious, take a breather. Find a quiet spot to relax and recharge your batteries. Use aromatherapy, flowers and soothing music to calm your nerves.
Let go of the past. Don’t be disappointed if your holidays aren’t like they used to be. Life brings changes. Embrace the future, and don’t dwell on the fact that the ’good old days‘ are gone.
Don’t drink or use recreational drugs too much. It is easy to overindulge around the holidays, but excessive drinking/drug use will only make you feel more depressed.
Give yourself a break. Don't think in absolute terms. You aren't the best cook in the world, or the worst. You aren’t super mom, or the most horrible mother in the world.
You don’t have to recreate a Disneyland or Norman Rockwell Christmas in order to make it a heartfelt, memorable holiday season!