Although the holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and good cheer, that’s not always the case. In fact, studies show that approximately 25 percent of the population suffers from some degree of depression during the holidays. After all, it’s the season of unrealistic expectations, stress and fatigue, combined with the increased demands of a lengthy to-do list. This depression may be temporary, but the problems and emotions that surface during this time make it difficult for some people to cope.
It may help to first understand the factors that commonly contribute to the holiday blues. They tend to fall into three categories:
- You may be facing your first holiday without a loved one, and this can cause feelings of sadness and loneliness.
- If you are already feeling depressed or isolated, seeing others having a good time may only make matters worse.
- Family misunderstandings and conflicts can also develop during this time of the year.
- Strained relationships between family members can create uneasiness when everyone gathers.
- Your expectations may be too high. When the picture-perfect celebration, expensive gifts or news from a long-lost friend fall short of expectations, disappoint takes over.
- The holidays are associated with additional financial burdens. You simply may not have as much money to buy gifts or holiday clothes this year.
- The holidays are also a temptation to overspend.
- The added responsibilities that come with the season can cause tension and fatigue.
- Too much food and drink during the holidays can cause frustrating weight gain and unhealthy eating habits.
Here are a few tips to prevent the blues from ruining your holidays:
• Acknowledge your feelings. If you’ve recently lost a loved one or are separated from someone you love, realize that it’s normal to feel sad about the situation. Repressing those feelings of sadness will only make them last longer.
• Seek social support. If you feel isolated or depressed, reach out to community, religious or social services that can provide you with support and companionship. Something as simple as getting involved with a community project could help to lift your spirits.
• Be realistic about change. Families grow, and traditions may need to change when they do. While it’s nice to hold on to certain family rituals, like a special food or activity, it’s also important to understand that some traditions may no longer be possible.
• Don’t set your expectations too high. Holiday gatherings portrayed in pictures and the media are not typically representative of most families.
Set aside differences. Try to accept family members as they are, and leave old grievances or discussions about differences until a more appropriate time.
• Plan ahead. While it helps to develop a calendar that includes specific days and times for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other events, don’t over-schedule. Reserve some time for relaxation, and ask family members and friends to share some of the added responsibilities.
• Don’t abandon healthy habits. It may be the holidays, but you still have an obligation to eat and drink responsibly.