Just because we expect this time of year to be filled with an abundance of joy and good cheer, the season doesn’t automatically bring us happy holidays – and it certainly doesn’t banish reasons for feeling lonely or sad. In fact, the holiday season may increase the likelihood of experiencing unhappy emotions. Death, divorce or other separation can cause or magnify a deep and acute sense of loss during the holidays. Relationships, finances, unmet expectations and the physical exertion of the season can all play havoc with happiness.
Here are some suggestions that may help with “holiday blues”:
Reach out. Spend time with your significant other or a close friend who accepts you as you are. Look for opportunities to socialize and enjoy the company of others.
Let the past stay in the past. Don’t let perceived past failures get you down. Leave the past where it is and, for that matter, don’t worry about the future. Live in the present, especially if thoughts of the past or future cause you sadness, guilt or anxiety.
Be who you are. Sometimes when we are with family we tend to fall into preconceived roles. We may revert to being “the baby of the family” or the one who was always “different” or “difficult.” Keep a sense of who you really are. Don’t be brought down by negative comments or the opinions of others, no matter how close they are to you.
Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, get plenty of rest, don’t drink too much and don’t overindulge in sweets and goodies. Lighten your heart. A light holiday book, movie or live performance can lift your spirits and give you a break from your to-do list or other holiday stressors.
Make time to experience the spirit of the season. Religious services and rituals often bring a sense of peace and purpose to an otherwise frantic time of year.
Help others. Sometimes a good response to the blues is to move from self-focused to other-focused. Contribute to a meaningful charity or reach out to help others in a tangible way. Sometimes the gift of your time is as important – or more important – than a gift of money.
During winter months some individuals experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), brought on by decreased exposure to sunlight. Others experience holiday blues that last a few days. But sometimes our feelings go beyond the blues or SAD, and are serious signs of depression. If you or a loved one have holiday blues that seem to be lingering, watch for the following signs:
- Constant sadness or irritability
- Loss of interest in pleasures once enjoyed
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Feelings of guilt, hopelessness or worthlessness
- Changes in weight, appetite or sleeping habits
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Thoughts of suicide or death
If you are aware of any of the above signs or symptoms, seek professional help. Learn more about Covenant Health’s behavioral health services by visiting www.peninsulabehavioralhealth.org for information or call Peninsula at (865) 970-9800.
For more ways to make your holidays less stressful and more enjoyable, download Peninsula’s free holiday survival guide at www.peninsulabehavioralhealth.org.