Many times, when the holiday season begins, we have mixed emotions.  The season can be a time full of joy, cheer, parties and family gatherings. But for many people, it is a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past failures and anxiety.  More reasons that some persons feel blue could be the stress of preparation for a number of guests, financial constraints, or the fact that they may be unable to be with friends and family.  We should think of the families of our military, who are far away from home.  They certainly have a right to dread the holidays.

People may also develop other stress responses such as headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping. Even more people experience post-holiday let down after January 1. This can result from disappointments during the preceding months compounded by the excess fatigue and stress. Work-related stress may appear more as the holidays approach.  You don’t want to let the holidays become something you dread.  Holiday triggers many “downers” – from financial pressures to personal demands.

Ways to overcome these feelings instead of having a complete meltdown are:

  • Plan ahead of time and stick with plans.
  • Positive thinking that you will have a good time during the holidays.
  • Have a social support network.  Spend time with family or friends, and make good friends, who are there for you, good or bad.  Be a friend.  Have a pet.  Volunteer for a good cause, to help those in need.  Visit a church and make friends there.  Be a good listener and be there when someone needs you.
  • Exercise.
  • Think of all the things you have to be thankful for.

Coping with Stress & Depression During the Holidays

  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t put the entire focus on just one day (i.e., Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.)
  • Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.  My dad loved Christmas, and I am always sad that he and my mother have been gone for so many Christmases.  It is a very natural thing to miss those we loved dearly.  But they wouldn’t want sadness during this time of the year for the family, so we just move forward and remember the great times we had.
  • Leave yesterday in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes.
  • Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping or making a snowperson with children.
  • Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Call someone you haven’t heard from in a long time.
  • Save time for yourself!

We spend many hours each day working with other people; one of the best gifts we can give them is the gift of compassion.  If they are having trouble dealing with work issues during the holiday season, offer to listen and help if you can.  Sometimes folks need professional help.    Be there for them if you can.  Everyone deserves happiness.  You might just help them shake off the “Holiday Blues!”

Source: Mental Health America; Mayo Clinic