The beginning of the holiday season is upon us, bringing with it expectations of joyous times, good cheer and optimistic hopes for the New Year. The holidays are traditionally filled with opportunities for gift-giving, gathering with friends and family and a time to reflect on the good things in life. However, for many people the holiday season is a time of loneliness, reflection on past failures, anxiety about an uncertain future and self-evaluation. For these people the holidays actually are a source of increased stress and depression, in short, the holiday blues.
The “Holiday Blues” can be caused by many things: stress, fatigue, over-commercialization, unrealistic expectations, or financial worries. The pressures of fitting everything in (family, shopping, parties, and house guests), the inability to be with one’s family and friends, extra expenses, and the disruption to one’s normal routine contribute to these feelings of tension. Even those who do not become depressed may experience other stress reactions during the holidays, such as excessive drinking, headaches, sleep problems, overeating and fatigue. Others may experience a post-holiday let down resulting from fatigue, stress and disappointments associated with the holidays.
There are strategies that can help avoid the holiday blues, alleviate stress, and help you get the most out of your holiday season.
- Keep in mind that you don’t have to be happy all of the time, there is room for feeling sad and lonely.
- Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by expecting this holiday season to be the “best ever”.
- Set realistic goals for yourself in terms of the money you can afford to spend, how you organize your time, and what you can accomplish each day.
- Remember that the focus of the holidays is not just one day, but rather the season (Thanksgiving through New Years).
- Remember that you are not a failure if you are alone during the holidays. The media does an excellent job of creating the false illusion that everyone spends the holidays with family.
- Chose to spend time with supportive and caring people. Reconnect with old friends and reach out and make new friends.
- Don’t judge this holiday season against past holidays, each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way.
- Give the gift of your time. Volunteering is a fulfilling and rewarding way to help others and feel good about yourself during the holidays.
- Take opportunities to experience something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
- Avoid excessive drinking. Drinking too much can intensify problems, create new problems, and increase depression.
- Make time for yourself. Give yourself permission to recharge your batteries while others share in the responsibility of activities.