It’s not unusual to feel stressed, blue and overwhelmed during the holidays. Ken Duckworth, MD, mental director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness says, “A lot of people would say that the holidays are the worst time of the year. They’re just straight up miserable.”
It’s like Facebook on steroids… reminders of other people’s happiness can be particularly difficult when we are feeling lonely or sad, or if we are dealing with any sort of loss or family conflict. The holidays hold an expectation of joy, from music on the radio, to TV and movies, to decorations everywhere we go. Many people have a fantasy vision of what their holiday ‘should’ look like, and it’s usually doesn’t turn out exactly as they anticipate. Disappointment occurs. Many people feel pressure to be happy and social. Trying to be someone they are not exacerbates the problem as well.
Loneliness and depression can be very painful, and it can help you to realize that you are not alone.
Knowing this brings me to my second point. Helping others is one of the best ways to lift yourself out of the blues. This can be thought of as the giving aspect of the holiday season. There are always folks who could benefit from your assistance and good will. Whether it’s a smile on the other side of a soup kitchen serving station or visiting a senior citizen housing complex, volunteering at an animal shelter, working at a homeless shelter or even just a show of compassion by giving the clerk at Macy’s a bottle of water to recognize that she doesn’t have the easiest job during this time of year, you can change someone else’s day.
What else can we do to help ease us through this holiday season?
- Lower or better yet, eliminate your expectations
- Plan ahead… be selective with how you spend your time.
- Do something every day that you love to do. What makes you happy? Painting, reading, yoga, cooking, Tennis … Nurture that part of you that fuels your spirit.
- Limit alcohol, sugar and carbohydrates. Too much alcohol can be the catalyst for problems where there might otherwise be none. Sugar, caffeine, and refined carbohydrates elevate cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to feelings of anxiety.
- Relax … even if it’s 10 minutes a day. Shut your eyes and breathe slowly.
The holiday season seems to accentuate for many people the shortcomings they perceive in their life. Keep in mind that feelings are temporary and they will pass, as will the holidays. Be kind to yourself!