The holidays don’t always represent festive positive fun times to everyone. The holidays can be stressful for several reasons, triggering past feelings, events, or negative circumstances. Shopping, social events, obligations, eating habits, debt, and other pressures can lead to anxiety. Missing loved ones and recalling negative events from the past (generally family) are the two highest factors leading to anxiety and depression beginning as early as October. Most individuals do not do well with change, even if it is a change from everyday routine, eating habits, alcohol use, or exercise.
Will your holiday be a downer?
Many people who report doing well throughout the year will find themselves feeling lonely, sad, angry, and sleeping poorly. A change in routine, expectations, change in food and alcohol, or daily activities, can cause headaches, tension, and fatigue.
People can find themselves in a positive upbeat place during the holidays and then feel letdown, sad, exhausted, guilty (spending money), frustrated and fearful.
Don’t confuse holiday blues with clinical depression. Clinical depression is a disorder that may need to be relieved with medicine. The “holiday downer” could need something as simple as a good listener. Clinical depression, however, can be triggered in several ways at or just after the holidays.
There is also a tendency to link the holiday blues with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called depression with seasonal pattern. SAD, however, is a diagnosable problem linked to fewer hours of sunlight during the winter. People with the holiday blues also can also have SAD. But, the two are not directly related. People with SAD have symptoms of major depression throughout the fall and winter.
Generally, women feel the need to push themselves during the holidays. Whether it is about presents, food, family, decorating, cleaning, or coordinating events, women tend to place high expectations on themselves. With the high expectations, they find themselves angry, tired, and becoming the martyr they never said they would never be! Many times, it boils down to a simple “not enough sleep” or “not enough help”. Sleep. Rest. Set boundaries for getting enough sleep and delegate! Women don’t need to do it all and at the end of the day, there are people who will willingly help – even if it is not as good as what you might have done yourself! Do not give up your regular exercise routine and eating habits. Don’t jump off the semi healthy eating boat with both feet first and know you are going to drown in the sea of sweets and junk for two months. Don’t eat two cookies and then make the decision you have already “screwed up” so you keep on going. Don’t gain your “typical 15 pounds at Christmas” and then be angry at everyone in the house because you think your butt looks huge.
Tips to ease the sadness or stress
- Have a heart-to-heart with a friend – seek some support in how you feel.
- Don’t look at Facebook. Everyone looks like they have an amazing successful fulfilled life!
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Stick within your normal routine as much as you can.
- Get your butt to the gym.
- Don’t obsess about your loved one not being here anymore. Concentrate on what you shared in the past during the holidays and be thankful for the times shared.
- Focus on what Christmas really means.
- Read, study, and teach the meaning of Christmas to a child.
- Volunteer! When feeling lonely, get to a homeless shelter, nursing home, church, food pantry, children’s home, or someplace you can give back to others.
- Be in a church Christmas program or volunteer to serve.
- Set a realistic budget and then stick to it.
- Set realistic goals and expectations.
- Do not label the season as a time to cure past problems.
- Don’t walk into a family gathering expecting a blow-up because you will surly have one!
- Take family members as they are….it won’t last long.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. That means don’t go to parties when you don’t really have time. Don’t take on events that will crowd your time. Don’t overextend yourself.
- Find time for yourself.
- Enjoy free holiday activities.
- Try to celebrate the holidays in a different way than what you are used to.
People make changes when they are tired enough of their current situations and change is a necessity. Making changes can prove to be empowering and freeing. Just because your holiday season may not be what you want, expected, or has been in the past, doesn’t mean it needs to be negative. Making changes to better yourself and your life can prove to be exactly what have needed for many years.
If you experience sadness during the holiday season and you feel the sadness isn’t seasonal or you are having difficulty functioning on a daily basis, give my office a call and we can discuss a plan for you.