The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, parties and gathering with friends and family. But, the holidays can be difficult for many dealing with personal grief, loneliness, illnesses, economic concerns, separation and other relationship issues. We can talk about peace on the earth but live in the reality that terrorism is in the world and that many of our service men and women from our country are at war. The commercialism of the holiday season can flood us with many unrealistic expectations. It is easy to become overwhelmed with a “to-do” list that goes on indefinitely.
The holidays are especially difficult when our feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression and anxiety are the opposite of the “picturesque” images we see all around us. Our anticipation and excitement turn into feelings of depression, commonly called the holiday blues. Symptoms can include headaches, insomnia, uneasiness, anxiety, sadness, intestinal problems, and unnecessary conflict with family and friends.
Part of what happens in the holiday season, in terms of mood changes and anxiety, may occur because of the stressfulness of holiday events. Overdrinking, overeating, and fatigue may also cause it. The demands of the season are many: shopping, cooking, travel, house guests, family reunions, office parties, more shopping and financial burden. The state of our current economy can also accentuate the feelings of stress or depression.
Here are some tools to get through the holiday season happily, as well as ways to prevent problems for yourselves and your loved ones. First, don’t expect the holidays to be just as they were when you were a child. They never are. You are not the same and neither is anyone in your family.
Second, try as much as possible to maintain your routines like sleeping, exercising, taking medications and appointments. Be reasonable with your schedule. Do not overbook yourself into a state of exhaustion; this will make you cranky, irritable and depressed.
Third, decide upon your priorities and stick to them. Organize your time. It is okay to exclude yourself from some social gatherings. While isolating yourself is not helpful, there are times when solitude can be a time of refreshment, reconnection and satisfaction.
Fourth, if you drink, do not let the holidays be an excuse to overindulge. This can worsen depression and anxiety. Contrary to what many believe, alcohol is a depressant. People dealing with these symptoms should not drink.
Finally, give yourself a break; create time for yourself to do things that you love and need to do for your physical and mental wellness: exercise, yoga, massage therapy, spiritual practices, or things that calm you. You will have a much better perspective on what is important in your life. Remember, if you are feeling blue this may be normal. The choice is always yours in how you deal with those feelings. Face each day with hope and determination. You may be surprised how resilient you are.