The song lyrics tell us to be merry and jolly. The grocery stores beckon with the fixings for home-baked treats. The mall is filled with shoppers hurrying about with bags of gifts. Television and social media are filled with toys, games, music and videos reflecting this happy time of year.
But what if you don’t feel happy? In fact, what if you are feeling weighed down by all this supposed holiday cheer around you? You’re not alone. The holidays can bring on feelings of loss and sadness for many people. There are many underlying causes of what is commonly called the “holiday blues.” Financial struggles, reminders of a lost loved one, recollections of happier times and loneliness all can seem more difficult this time of year.
While depression is a medical condition that needs treatment by a professional, there are some steps you can take to ward off the emotional toll the holidays can sometimes bring. Here are five ways to beat the holiday blues:
1. Get outside and get moving. The combination of shorter daylight hours, colder temperatures and a busier schedule can make us abandon our regular exercise routine and even our regular eating habits. In addition, you may be impacted by the lower amount of sunlight you are experiencing.
Plan to incorporate some exercise into each day. Even a 30-minute walk can do wonders for your outlook, since that amount of activity is enough to trigger increased production of the mood-lifting endorphins in your brain. Too busy during the day? Try taking a walk at night to enjoy the beautiful night sky this time of year.
With holiday get-togethers come holiday treats and goodies. Sure, it’s OK to indulge now and then, but be careful not to abandon your normal healthy eating habits. Binging on sugary treats can add to feelings of depression.
2. Help others. One of the best ways to forget about what is making you feel sad is to help others. This time of year offers many opportunities for volunteering in your community. Seek out shelters, soup kitchens, retirement centers, children’s hospitals and religious organizations that are sponsoring holiday volunteer projects.
It is true that when you give to others, you get much back in return. You also will be out and among other like-minded people, and you may make some new friends.
3. Curb over-spending. If the holiday blues involve the fear of January bills after holiday gift-giving, plan to keep to a budget this holiday season. Think of new and creative gift-giving ideas that don’t involve big outlays of cash, such as providing coupons for services you will provide for the other person. Ideas include: babysitting, dog walking, pet sitting, errand running and doing yard work.
Look for ways to have fun without spending a lot of money. For example, many churches and community organizations offer free or low-cost concerts or theater productions this time of year. Or, go window shopping or make a trip around your community looking at Christmas lights.
4. Learn to say no. Holiday stress can escalate when we feel we have no down time. It’s OK to say no to some events and to carve out some quiet time. What helps you feel calm? Sometimes just spending 30 minutes quietly reading or listening to music can have a rejuvenating effect on our moods.
5. Create new traditions. If you find yourself dwelling on how things used to be, it may be time to create some new holiday traditions and memories. If your family is far away, for instance, seek out some friends who are in the same boat. If you are not up to cooking a big holiday dinner, host a potluck brunch.
If you feel lonely, attend a religious or community event that will get you out of the house and thinking about other things. If you used to spend time baking with a loved one who now is not with you, think about whom you could share that tradition with this year.
Thankfully, the feelings of sadness that bring on the holiday blues are usually temporary. When these feelings worsen or if they last for more than two to three weeks, however, it could be time to get professional help. Here are the main warning signs of depression:
- Persistent anxiousness, nervousness or sadness.
- Sudden loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy.
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt.
- Changing sleep pattern shifts, including the need to sleep more, or difficulty sleeping.
- Weariness and lack of energy.
- Significant change in weight.
- Headaches or digestive disorders that don’t improve with standard treatment.
- Loss of concentration.
- Thoughts of suicide.
Don’t let this joyful time of year become something you dread. With a little forethought and planning and a little positive thinking, you can regain the joy you once found in the holiday season.
What are ways you avoid the holiday blues? Leave your reply in the section below: