It’s supposed to be a ‘merry Christmas and a happy holiday’ but for millions of people around the world, November and December can actually bring about a bad case of holiday blues.
Holiday blues can be caused by stress, fatigue, anxiety and financial burdens. Reunions can also trigger old family issues or conflicts, and even the cheery songs and the pressure to ‘be happy’ can deepen grief or loneliness. Here are some symptoms of holiday blues, and life tips to help you cope with them.
Don’t go into Superman mode
The holidays can be a flurry of chores and responsibilities: shopping, wrapping, decorating, plus a slough of parties and gatherings. Don’t feel compelled to do everything, or worse, do everything perfectly. Keep a reasonable schedule and don’t overcommit. There’s no shame or blame in turning down a party invitation or ordering all your gifts from one website to save yourself the trouble of navigating the malls. And ask for help! See what items on your to-do list can be done by other family members. If you cook dinner, they can buy ingredients; if you bought the gifts, they can wrap them. Even Santa had elves!
Ackonwledge what you really feel
Don’t feel bad about feeling bad. The holidays don’t magically erase any feelings or frustrations you may have, and many of its situations and conditions (such as seasonal affective disorder) can actually heighten your emotions.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to wallow in your resentment, sadness or frustration. Avoid situations that you know will plunge you into a dark mood, or if you can’t get out of it then emotionally prepare yourself. For example, if family reunions always end with you fighting with your dad, then either do a quick visit or mentally prepare yourself to ignore any hurtful comments or avoid any potentially explosive topics.
Adjust your expectations
Holiday blues can be exacerbated by a sense of regret or longing for the innocence or perfection of the Christmases of your childhood. ‘Why can’t it be like that anymore?’ Because you’re not a child, and chances are, your memories are probably idealized and very, very far from what actually happened years ago.
Instead of thinking about how good Christmases used to be focus on what you can do to make this Christmas better. Try asking yourself what you really ‘miss’ about Christmas past. Is it playing with your cousins? Why not volunteer at an orphanage and play with the kids—that may let you recapture some of the silliness and spontaneity. Is it not having to worry about things? Then—stop worrying! There is nothing stopping you from creating that Christmas today.
Let go of the baggage
There are some problems we can’t fix—that’s part of life. But there are also problems we create or magnify, because we cling to the anger or resentment. This Christmas, decide that if you can’t change a situation, at least change the level of emotional investment and baggage. ‘I choose not to be affected by what he says.’ Or ‘I choose not to pressure myself to find a date for the New Year’s Eve party.’
Enjoy things you don’t have to buy
You don’t need to be rich to enjoy the holidays. Think of some activities that you like but won’t cost a penny. For example, you can drive around and look at holiday decorations, go sledding or ice skating.
Make somebody else happy
Sometimes the best way to put a smile on your face is to put a smile on somebody else’s. Write letters to people telling them how much they changed your life. Volunteer at a shelter. Donate old toys to an orphanage.
Count your blessings
Don’t count the blues…count the blessings! Here are some life tips on how to keep a gratitude journal even on your worst days. Try keeping one during the holidays, and celebrate the gifts that aren’t under the tree.
Photo from moorefit.org