We’re now into the 5 week period called the “holidays”. I’ve likened this to two trains being on the same track, heading towards one another.
And as Hanukkah, Christmas, and the New Year approach, the trains increase their speed towards one another.
The tension builds as the dates come closer, and a collision is inevitable. One train represents the cultural expectations of joy, happiness, fellowship, harmony, and togetherness. The other train represents the reality of many people’s lives-loss of relationships by divorce, death, separation. Or the chronic sense of isolation, histories of family dysfunction, or substance and alcohol abuse.
So, all too often our anticipation and excitement turns into feelings of depression and sadness. This is called the “holiday blues”. Symptoms may include isolation, sleep difficulties, loneliness, fatigue, irritability, physical pains including stomachache or headache, uneasiness, and unnecessary conflict with family and friends.
This seems to be caused by many factors including over drinking, shopping, cooking, travel, having houseguests, office parties, more shopping, and family reunions. For those without family or a social network, this further exacerbates the sense of loneliness. Remember that retailers make over 25% of their profits during this 5 week period. So we are flooded with the message to spend, which during this recessionary economy, may further exacerbate those that are already stressed and depressed.
Here are some suggestions and ideas to help prevent problems and to make the holidays enjoyable (or at least bearable!).
1. Do not overbook yourself-be reasonable with your expectations about what you can do. Exhaustion can make us cranky, angry, and depressed.
2. Be reasonable with what you expect the holidays to bring. They will not automatically take away our feelings of sadness, resentment towards others, frustration, or aloneness.
3. Live in the moment. We need to remember that the freight train of our fantasies about what the past was like are no longer relevant. Our families have changed, we have changed. We cannot go back to our childhood. (And for some this is a blessing.)
4. Declare this a period of amnesty towards family members and friends that you’re feeling past resentments toward. This is not the time to air the dirty laundry or read the list of grievances to them.
5. Practice good self-care-eat reasonably, continue exercise, make sure you get adequate amounts of sleep, moderate your intake of alcohol. Create time for yourself to do the things that bring physical, spiritual, and mental well-being.
6. It bears repeating, moderate your intake of alcohol. Remember that overindulging in alcohol will exacerbate depression and anxiety. In fact, this is such a problem during the holidays that drug and alcohol treatment centers have already begun hiring extra personnel to begin working in January, treating all of those that have relapsed or seriously abused alcohol and drugs.
7. Seriously consider volunteering to serve holiday dinners at a homeless shelter. When volunteering to do community service, it is difficult to feel depressed as we serve others.
8. Finally, it is important to remember that if feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, or suicidal thoughts arise that you seek professional consultation. These are symptoms of a clinical depression above and beyond the typical “holiday blues”.
In closing, if you find your self feeling blue during this holiday season, remember to slowdown, take a breath, and remind yourself that January is just around the corner!