Learning to cope with holiday anxiety, depression, and stress.
Holiday music fills the air, streets are decorated with dazzling lights; our time is divided among work parties, family gatherings, community celebrations, and the business of daily life. The already short days are made more hectic with countless expectations and obligations. And as we anticipate the approach of “the season to by jolly” we may be surprised to find ourselves feeling dread instead of joy. The fact is, many people experience sadness, loneliness, anxiety, and depression during the holiday season.
Below are some reasons we may feel less than lighthearted during “the most wonderful time of the year:”
- Holidays are a time to look back and reflect upon ourselves and our pasts. We may be reminded of friends and family we have lost, or feel loneliness if we don’t have family, friends or a significant other.
- When joining in holiday events and activities we may experience pressure to feel and act a certain way that may not seem natural or genuine to us.
- Unrealistic demands on our time, increased social obligations, and increased personal expectations may produce feelings of exhaustion and anxiety during the holiday season.
- Financial stress during the “season of giving” can leave us feeling frustrated, resentful or inadequate.
- Science tells us the shortened days, lack of sunlight, and cold temperatures can cause or exacerbate negative feelings.
Every individual, and every family system is unique; history, traditions, relationships, and expectations all influence our emotional state during the holiday season. It is a challenge navigating these emotions and coping with the seemingly contradictory feelings holidays bring. Thinking about ways of managing difficult feelings can help us get through the holiday blues. While the holidays are a time to think of others, don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Here are some tips that might help you beat the winter blues:
- Remember, It is OK to feel what you feel. Feelings of loneliness, sadness, anxiety and depression often hit us just as the expectation to feel happy and joyful is at its greatest. Holding in or denying our feelings often only intensifies them.
- Ask for help when the stress is overwhelming. It may make the other person feel good to lend a hand. Chances are they’ve experience the holiday blues themselves.
- Create new traditions that feel right for you. If old traditions bring up unhappy memories, perhaps it’s time to start new ones.
- Set aside a moment in the day just for you. Whether it’s taking a bath or listening to some music, or finding a quiet place to relax, doing something that calms you can make a world of difference.
- Take a moment to consider the things you are grateful for and remember the things that are important in your life. Focusing on gratitude can help take the edge off of the holiday blues.
- Eat right, exercise and seek the sun! Cold weather and piles of warm food drive us indoors, but exercise, exposure to sunlight–or even a full spectrum light bulb–and a balanced diet help keep your body and brain healthy and balanced.
Yes, the holidays are a time to give to others, but giving to ourselves matters too. Learning to cope with the stress of the holidays enables you to honestly and genuinely join in the joy, good cheer, and festivities of the season.