Holiday Blues – What To Do About Them

Holiday Blues – What To Do About Them. The holidays are bombarded with expectations.  Expectations that include past years of nostalgia or disappointment. For some people, the holidays are a time of great challenges.  For whatever reason situations have changed for them making the Holidays a time of unhappiness and loneliness.

Baby Boomers remember Charlie Brown saying, “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” – A Charlie Brown Christmas

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I see a lot of people who come in suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons typically around the winter months.  SAD can exacerbate the Holiday Blues as you’re already feeling overwhelmed and stressed out due to expectations that come with family get together’s and company Christmas parties.

This Holiday season will be especially difficult for me as I lost my brother, who at the age of 55 died unexpectedly last April.  He being my best friend and confidante a feeling of great loss and despair will now be part of my holiday blues moving forward.  As many of us remember those who are no longer with us, there is also the loss of marriages and relationships.  Holidays propel us back into old family conflicts which can resurface each year and deepen old wounds making us feel a range of emotions.

Rather than become consumed with sad feelings and depression here are some ways you can lighten your expectations and ease the holiday blues.

Reassess your priorities

As the year closes, we feel pulled by an array of demands: attending office parties, cooking elaborate meals, traveling and spending beyond our means. What would actually bring you the most pleasure this holiday? Make a list of your holiday “shoulds”. Get inspired by Ellen Burstyn’s should-less” days. See if you can cross off at least two or three items from your list.

Then, make a new list – of things that will bring you meaning and pleasure. How can these two lists be combined? For instance, if you want to reconnect with old friends but you are planning to cook a complicated meal to impress them, what if everyone brought a dish, instead? Collaborate with family and friends by letting them know how you feel about the holidays – you may be surprised to find they feel the same way – and together, find creative ways to ease holiday anxiety.

Give to those who need it most

The old adage is true: there is nothing that makes you feel less alone and less unworthy than to help others. For years, when my children were young, we would volunteer at a soup kitchen on Christmas day. The holidays offer so many opportunities to give to the community. And you will find that your act of altruism has the benefit of making you feel better, while also creating a sense of meaning that cuts through the superficialities of the holiday season. Here’s a list of possibilities for helping others to find opportunities in your area, a quick internet search should lead you in the right direction.

Surround yourself with your family of choice

Many of us do not spend the holidays with those that we love the most. What I seek in the holidays is gathering, conviviality, and warmth – a beating back against the cold through the fellowship of others. Create a place where you can be with those who accept you, free from judgment and awkward political conversations. If you feel isolated, far from your family, have a gathering of “the exiled and orphans.” This kind of fellowship brings great solace during the holidays.

Find some time for spiritual introspection

Regardless of your religion, being in a room where songs are sung, candles are lit and humans gather together can be uplifting, helping you to shift your focus from doing to simply being.

  1. This year I have let go of various shoulds, like “I should send out Christmas cards to everyone who sends me one”. I don’t have a “Perfect” nuclear family and receiving holiday cards with photos of other peoples families often makes me feel bad, though I know I am blessed in many other ways
  2. This year I have actually cut back on invitations, even with people I love. Instead, I have left them surprise texts or emails and spent more time with myself and spiritual pursuits. I feel blessed and at peace.
  3. I especially have patients who are assaulted by the should. And I would add that getting in contact with some feeling or experience that was good, can be part of our transforming a holiday of expectations and nostalgia into something playful. It can be a recovery of some lost parts we often bury in the midst of so many expectations.
  4. I am determined to have a no-drama Christmas this year. The last two Christmas times were not happy joyful times at all. Christmas 2014 there was a death in the family and Christmas 2015 brought personal relationship devastation to the family. This year I am staying positive by being around positive people, attending gatherings with family and friends, attending Christmas performances, not dwelling on what has been lost in my life but what I have gained (in knowing myself and letting others know I know them) and just liking myself and moving on. It’s so freeing and peaceful.

Don’t let SAD, stressors of the Holiday Season, or the loss of an old way of celebrating Christmas as people come and go in our lives, make the Holiday Blues any more difficult than they need be.

What will you be doing for the Holidays?  What do you anticipate happening during that time for you?  Do you believe you will manage your stress appropriately?  I am interested in knowing how you weather this period of time.

 

For help in managing these symptoms please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

Holiday Overload

Holiday Overload.  Preventing Holiday overload is something we want to put in place as Thanksgiving is next week and before you know it Christmas and New Year’s and everything that comes with the Holidays will hit us just like it does every year.  For most this time of year is filled with fun and excitement.  For others, it’s a time  of loneliness and depression, days filled with obligation, guilt, and doing things you really don’t want to do.  Part of what happens during the holiday season is our mood changes and anxiety occurs because of the stress of overdoing it.  Overdrinking, overeating, and fatigue causes it. The demands of the season are many: shopping, cooking, travel, house guests, family reunions, office parties, shopping and extra financial burdens.

Man in Santa Claus hat loooking depressed about his finances

Here are 10 Tips I use to get through the holiday season:
1. Develop a reasonable schedule. Don’t overbook yourself into a state of exhaustion–this makes people cranky, irritable, and depressed.
2. Prioritize and Organize your time.
3. Remember, no matter what your plans, the holidays do not automatically take away feelings of aloneness, sadness, frustration, anger, and. fear.
4. Be careful about resentments from past holidays. Declare an amnesty with whichever family member or friend you are feeling past resentments.
5. Don’t expect the holidays to be just as they were when you were a child. They NEVER are. You’re not the same as when you were a child, and no one else in the family is either.
6. Don’t have any plans for the Holidays? Volunteer to serve holiday dinner at a homeless shelter. Work with any number of groups that help underprivileged or hospitalized children at the holidays. There are many opportunities for doing community service. No one can be depressed when they are doing community service.
7. Plan unstructured, low-cost fun holiday activities: window-shop and look at the holiday decorations. Look at people’s Christmas lighting on their homes, take a trip to the mountains, etc.–the opportunities are endless.
8. If you drink, do not let the holidays become a reason for over-indulging and hangovers. This will exacerbate your depression and anxiety. Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is a depressant.
9. Give yourself a break; create time for yourself to do the things YOU love and need to do for your physical and mental wellness: aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, taking long fast walks or any activity that calms you down and gives you a better perspective on what is important in your life. Laugh a lot.
10. If the Holiday Blues become overwhelming and affects your normal level of functioning seeking a Therapist is always the right thing to do.
Please let me know if I can be of help.  Call me at (858) 735-1139  Happy Holidays

How Couples Can Survive The Holidays

How Couples Can Survive The Holidays.  Have you ever said……”I wish we could just go away for the Holidays? ”

 

Thanksgiving.  The official start of the Holiday Season.  Most couples dread the Holidays as they are expected to spend time with in-laws and other extended family members.  Even when you have healthy family relations and communication is good certain people can still get under your skin.  It’s these “certain” people that can negatively affect your relationship as the Holidays are already a high time for anxiety.

In Marriage Counseling it is recommended to put boundaries in place and set good limits so that individual and relationship needs are met by you and your spouse and your respective families.  As a Couples Counselor I stress the importance of being cognizant of knowing when to say YES and when to say NO to extended family members so that the couples ensures their immediate family needs are met.  I understand your respective Families of Origins want access to you and yours but sometimes doing something different can be as beneficial as doing whatever it is you typically do.

A couple of years ago my husband and I went to Little Palm Island in Florida for Thanksgiving weekend. For the past 25 years my sister and I traded off hosting either Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve/Day Dinner for the family.  As wonderful as that is it became a little routine for me and the responsibility was becoming burdensome.  I wanted to do something different.  Of course, I got flack from my parents and in-laws as they are from the older generation but I explained to them that I needed time with my husband and that the traditions were going to be altered for that year.  Yes, there was some guilt feelings on my part for awhile, but it didn’t last too long when I was basking in the Florida sun on a private island having even met Christian Slater vacationing at the resort, as well.

It was a well deserved getaway for my husband and me and helped rejuvenate our relationship.  Another year we took a “staycation” here at the Hotel Del with our youngest daughter and enjoyed what our own City had to offer during Christmas Dinner.  Enjoying the season and your family without the undue stress certainly makes a huge difference.  I highly recommend it.  This year I want to host for the Holidays as I enjoy that too.

Doing what you really don’t want to do during this particular time of year can be very stressful for couples and can make the difference between having a great Holiday Season or just another holiday season….it’s always a choice.  Call me at (858) 735-1139 if you need help making the right choice for you and yours.