Media messages this time of year present the holidays as happy, celebratory, joyful and fun. But if this is supposed to be such a happy time of year, why can people feel blue?
There are lots of reasons. The holidays tend to bring back memories of old traditions, happier times, and memories that are just too painful to acknowledge. For those coping with illness, disappointment, long-term caregiving, or financial challenges, the holidays can lose their joy because they can’t be celebrated in the traditional way or because life has changed. Some may feel isolated, left out or depressed.
This time of year, many people and households are stretched for time, energy, and money which can require an adjustment in how things are celebrated. Most of us are very creative when it comes to finding ways to distract ourselves from the feelings created by these changes. We shop, we drink, we eat, we scroll on our mobile phones, or fill our days with activity in an attempt to avoid the emptiness.
Stress is a problem for many during the holiday season. Stress is insidious. It builds on itself, causing sleeplessness, tension, and confusion. Eventually, stress makes it difficult to feel well or happy, to think clearly or make good decisions.
What makes things worse? Our expectations are a big part of the problem. Many of us still expect the magic of our childhood. Maybe our childhood holiday experiences were perfect, and we look back with longing. Or maybe our experiences were less than ideal, and we keep wishing for the happy times we saw others celebrating. We feel sad and disappointed when our expectations fall short of today’s reality.
If you or someone close to you is facing challenges this holiday season, what can you do to make things better? Try these tips:
- Give yourself permission to “be.” Don’t punish yourself if this season is difficult for you.
- Put major decisions or changes on hold for now.
- Accept your limitations and be reasonable in your expectations.
- Get rid of the “shoulds” in your thinking.
- Re-evaluate your priorities and obligations.
- Plan ahead. Time, like money is a limited resource. Even shopping can be more enjoyable by using catalogs, telephoning ahead or shopping when the stores are less crowded.
- Spend quiet time with a loved one. The “feeling” of having a visit is important even for the impaired.
- Consider keeping a journal to record your thoughts.
- If you are shopping, buy yourself something nice. No reasons are necessary. Just do it!
- Reduce stress by changing your routine, surroundings, traditions, or rituals. Create new ones. For example, eat at a different time or change the time you normally open gifts. Change your gift-giving traditions or focus of your holiday celebration.
- Relax! Close your eyes and get comfortable. Breathe deeply and slowly. Exhale slowly and deeply, telling yourself that your stress is leaving the body with the breath. Try this for a few minutes and you will begin to feel your body relaxing
- Start an exercise program. Aside from improving your self-esteem, exercise creates a biological response that will improve your outlook, increase energy, and ward off depression.
- Call an old friend. Or, seek out the support of others by caring and sharing.
- Talk about your feelings. Surround yourself with people who you enjoy and who will be supportive of you and understand.
- List ten things you are grateful for every day.
- Try to maintain your perspective and sense of humor.
- Get reacquainted with your Bible or spiritual base in a way that seems appropriate to you.
- Plan your budget and gifts according to your means and health. The gift of love is not valued on a cash register.
- Plan now to start a new activity or interest in the New Year to avoid that let-down feeling after the holidays.
- Make tentative plans for attending holiday gatherings. Do not feel obligated to stay the entire time.
- Recognize that the holidays may need to be different this year. Discuss these changes with family and friends. They may have feelings similar to yours.
- If a person important to you has died, share a holiday memory about that person with someone else.
Each of us knows the personal things that bring joy and comfort. What is it for you? Perhaps it is a long walk alone or with a special friend. Perhaps it is listening to a favorite piece of music. Maybe yours is a special meal or food treat. Maybe it’s relaxing with a new book. Whatever it is, only you know how to treat yourself. Just be sure to do it.
You have the power within you to make the holiday season a joyous one. Hopefully, you will enjoy a season that satisfies you emotionally, renews your spiritual hope, and is full of the love and fellowship that we all long to experience.
If you need some extra support, drop by and we can share a cup of coffee.