Feeling the Holiday Blues?
The holiday lights are going up as festive music fills the air. Everyone must be feeling merry, right? Many view the winter holiday season as a special time filled with family, friends, parties, celebrations and social gatherings, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Instead, sadness, a sense of loss, self-reflection, loneliness, anxiety, and depression are what others experience. We call this the “holiday blues.” But why does this affect some and not others? Like everything in today’s world, it’s complicated.
The very expectation is to “be of good cheer.” Greeting cards, television commercials, internet ads, mall storefronts, grocery stores and even car dealerships are constant and relentless marketing efforts that tell us over and over again of this happy, joyful season. This causes guilt feelings for some, for not feeling as they “should.”
Memories of holidays past can also bring on the blues. Perhaps last year’s family holiday dinner didn’t go quite as planned. Extended families under the same roof bickered. Other loved ones lived too far away and couldn’t make it. Estrangement from family created a glaring absence. Financial difficulties made it difficult to celebrate. Alcohol or drug abuse under the guidance of holiday “spirits,” rendered someone unable to fully function. The loss of beloved friends and family members, including pets, who were likely integral to past holidays, can be acutely felt and new grief may surface.
There are ways to curb these holiday blues. First, never feel obligated to feel a certain way. There is no such thing as how you “should” feel. If you can’t spend the holidays with family (or can’t even THINK about doing so), get together with some good friends for a holiday dinner and start a new tradition, a la “Friendsgiving.” Another tip, get some sunlight! Holiday blues or sadness might be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Lack of sunlight during the winter months, even in Florida, can have a chemical effect on your mood. Try to exercise. It raises your endorphins, which are peptides that activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect. This helps you feel better and fulfills those New Year’s resolutions as well! Shift your focus to your future goals – look forward to what life will bring in the coming year.
Another idea is to remove the focus from you. Consider a seasonal volunteer project – serve meals at a homeless shelter, wrap gifts for abused and neglected children, sing carols to seniors who live alone and more. Seeing what others are missing in their lives, can make us realize all that we have. Finally, and always, please consider speaking with a mental health professional. Sometimes there are issues hidden behind the “holiday blues” that require an expert’s guidance.