Surviving the Holiday Blues

The holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year” for many but not for everyone. The stress and anxiety of the holidays is often a difficult time. Some struggle with:

  • the hustle and bustle and overall busyness – holiday parties, shopping for gifts, limited vacation time
  • isolation and loneliness – physical separation from loved ones who live far, family conflict, strained relationships
  • financial pressures that are often worsened by going into debt to buy gifts for family and friends
  • grief and loss
  • the stark contrast that exists between fantasy and reality during the holidays – what we imagine vs. how the season truly unfolds
  • too much “merry” as a means to cope with stress – overeating, overspending, and excessive drinking

According to the Hi-Health Holiday Stress Facts

  • 8 out of 10 Americans anticipate stress during the holiday season
  • A few of the top cited holiday stressors include – minimal time, lack of money, commercialism of the holiday season, pressure of giving and getting gifts, travel, adhering to a diet/healthy eating, amassing credit card debt, children

Sometimes what individuals perceive to be stress from the holidays is actually much more serious as can occur with Seasonal Affective Disorder, abbreviated SAD. A few facts about Seasonal Affective Disorder include:

  • SAD is a subtype of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) – the depressive episodes occur during a specific time of the year and typically during the winter months
  • The prevalence is between 4 – 6%
  • Symptoms typically occur during the fall and winter months when shorter days fewer hours of sunlight and longer nights
  • Seasonal episodes outnumber non-seasonal depressive episodes
  • Depressive symptoms generally remit the during the spring and summer months
  • Seen most often in women in their 20s
  • Symptoms – sad or irritable mood, anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure from activities that one usually finds enjoyable), changes in sleep and appetite, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, worthless and hopeless feelings, thoughts of suicide
  • Treatment options consist of psychotherapy, medication, and lightbox therapy

So how do we avoid a Blue Christmas? Here are 5 strategies to combat the holiday blues named after some of my favorite holiday music

  1. Give Love on Christmas Day / Joy to the World – help those in need by volunteering at a nursing home or homeless shelter, granting a wish for a family from an angel tree, reading stories to children at a local hospital or nearby preschool to spread holiday cheer
  2. What Child is This – focus on the reason for the season, practice kindness and gratitude, set aside familial differences in the name of love
  3. Silent Night – take time to rest and forego the urge to overdo it at holiday parties, when shopping for gifts, or when decorating your home for the season; set a budget and stick to it or implement creative solutions to minimize costs (handmade gifts, gift exchange); create a schedule for various events and activities that won’t overwhelm you or your family
  4. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – get moving and exercise, get enough rest, don’t overindulge in sweets and too much eggnog
  5. Deck the Halls – establish new holiday traditions such helping to decorate a local church or hospital floor, watch holiday programs like Home Alone or Charlie Brown Christmas; take part in free or cheap activities such as driving around neighborhoods to view holiday lights or baking cookies to share with friends and neighbors

Remember it is okay to acknowledge difficult or sad feelings. And if you need help, please get it. Don’t face the holiday season alone.

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