Holiday blues

by James Mathews, DO, Providence Family Medicine

‘Tis the season! The holidays can create an atmosphere of family bonding, good will, cheer and excitement. They can also usher in disappointment, stress and depression. How can one create a balance, and not let the holidays become a burden? Let me offer some helpful hints.

  1. Remember what is important: Families and friends are usually what make the holidays special, not the commercialism that seems to overshadow this time of year. If you have spiritual convictions, remember the true meaning of the holidays and devote some time to celebrating in your own way.
  2. Know your limits: This includes setting a budget, or even setting a limit on what you are willing to do. If you are asked to host the family party or the work retreat, but you are unable to do so, you shouldn’t feel badly about saying “no.” Finding alternative accommodations is better than piling on unwelcomed stress.
  3. Keep your daily routine: With altered school and work schedules and holiday gatherings, it becomes easy to let parties, outings and shopping spin your life out of control. Try to keep your exercise routine, your kids’ bedtimes and your mental and spiritual routine as they usually are. This will help preserve the balance that you strive to keep in everyday life. David Palmiter, PhD, of the American Psychological Association has said, regarding stress management during the holidays, “Sometimes self-care is the best thing you can do — others will benefit when you’re free of stress. Go for a long walk, get a massage or take time out to listen to your favorite music or read a new book. All of us need some time to recharge our batteries — by slowing down you will actually have more energy to accomplish your goals.”
  4. Remember those who need to be remembered: If you have lost a loved one, consider giving some time to reflect on holidays past. Honoring and remembering those who are not with you anymore can give meaning and fulfillment to your holidays.
  5. Realize traditions may change: If there is a tradition that has always been a part of your holiday routine, then continuing it may be something that can make your holiday worth the extra time and effort you invest each year. Keep in mind, though, that your personal or family circumstances may change year to year, hence your traditions may need to be modified. Be flexible to new and meaningful traditions.
  6. Give yourself a break: If your life circumstances are different this year, from the death of a loved one, a divorce, physical illness, mental illness or a deployed military family member, know that you are not expected to be and do everything that you once were. Make a list of realistic priorities and focus on them.
  7. Be service- oriented: Performing simple acts of kindness can bring a depth and meaning to holiday observance which can teach you and your children a greater respect for the community and those who are truly in need.
  8. Seek help if you need it: If your holiday blues are a sign of a deeper depression or anxiety that doesn’t seem to go away, there is help. Don’t lose hope. Please seek help from a professional counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or your doctor.