The holidays are a time of happiness and cheer. We are encouraged to visit family and friends, engage in special celebrations, eat, drink, and be merry. The concept behind these traditions is based in joy, but not everyone is joyful around the holidays. In fact, many people are lonely, depressed, and anxious at this time of year. What brings on this sadness, despite the joyful holiday celebrations around us? Perhaps a case of the holiday blues, if so, read on on how to rise above the mood and find joy.
Holiday Triggers: A Challenging Combination
There are many things that cause sadness around the holidays. Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP, lists a few:
- Memories: Not all of us have happy memories of holidays past. In fact, whether we are aware of it or not, these difficult seasons we thought we forgot can rear up this time of year, causing depression and anxiety.
- Loneliness: Parties and family gatherings are always more fun with a plus one. If you don’t have a significant other to share the season with, or you are reeling from a breakup or the loss of a partner, it can be a very lonely time.
- Winter weather: Shorter days mean less sunlight, and that can plunge many people into seasonal affective disorder. This can lead to feelings of sadness and depression.
- Finances: Opportunities for overspending abound at holiday time. When you have financial barriers it can leave you feeling inadequate.
Holiday Blues Rising Above the Mood and Finding Joy in the Season
Despite these triggers that can be difficult to overcome, it is possible to find happiness this time of year. The key is to know your limits and set realistic goals.
- Allow yourself to feel your feelings. Acknowledge them and release them. It does not good to try to outrun loneliness or anxiety. In fact, trying to escape can lead to problematic behaviors that feed into a vicious cycle.
- Make time for fun, but don’t overbook. Exhaustion and stress will feed depression and anxiety. It’s great to have plans, just make sure to balance your schedule and set priorities.
- Help others! It is impossible to be depressed when you are doing something for other people. Maybe you have an elderly neighbor who is alone for the holidays. Plan to spend a day and make a special meal with him or her. There are so many less fortunate people in the world- volunteer at a soup kitchen or get involved with an organization that helps the homeless or veterans. Give your time and love to someone else. It will feed your soul.
- Get creative. If finances are an issue, scour Black Friday deals at the craft store and find supplies to make your own cards and gifts. Your time will be filled with soothing projects that will mean the world to the people who receive them.
- Remember that you always have a choice. You may feel sad and alone. Acknowledge it, then choose to act. There are so many opportunities to redirect your energy to something good.
Purcell, M. Beating the Holiday Blues. PsychCentral.