By Valley Cities Behavioral Health Care
“The holidays and beginning of a new year bring comfort and joy for many, but there are also a lot of people who feel out of sync with the holidays, experiencing loneliness, sadness, and depression,” said Brian Allender, MD, psychiatrist and medical director at Valley Cities Behavioral Health Care.
This time of year can be difficult for all of us. The stress and overwhelming nature of the holidays can bring up all sorts of emotions, especially for those already going through a hard time. According to Dr. Allender, there are strategies that can help minimize the stress and aftermath of the holidays, and help you enjoy this time of year, with a good start to the new year.
But first, why are we feeling this way? In the Northwest, there are many reasons why we might get hit with those “holiday blues.”
Loneliness is a common feeling during this time of year. If family and friends are not nearby, the distance can be particularly painful during the holiday season.
Days are also much shorter this time of year, which can lead to seasonal affective disorder in many people. The lack of sunlight can take a toll, mentally.
Finances play a big factor in contributing to the “holiday blues.” If your financial resources are limited at this time of year, you may not be able to give the gifts that you wish you could. It is even worse if your family is far away and you are unable to travel to them.
At the holidays, your thoughts turn to family members and friends who are no longer with us. The sense of loss you feel can spoil even the happiest of celebrations.
Many people experience pressure to feel a certain way during this time. When there is an expectation to feel one way, yet you actually feel another, there can be guilt and confusion.
People associate the holidays with their past experiences during this season. If you associate this time of year with a painful memory, it may be difficult to enjoy the holidays this year.
There are often high expectations for the new year to be different and better, but we may feel exactly the same.
Here are some strategies you can adopt to survive the holidays and post-holiday blues:
• Take note of what’s positive in your life. Cultivating a sense of gratitude can go a long way to improve your mood.
• Help someone else or volunteer. It’s hard to feel blue when you’re busy doing good for those around you. Volunteer at a shelter or food bank, or spend time with someone who needs it. This can help remind you what the holidays are all about.
• Create your own traditions It’s a great way to associate new memories with this time of year, and can get you excited to continue these traditions each year.
• Stay busy. Fill your calendar with events and keep yourself occupied and help you focus your mind in the moment. This can include exercise and getting into the sun, which both help fight any chemical causes that can trigger the “blues.”
• Lastly, it is most important to take care of yourself during this time. It is OK to say “no” – you do not have to do everything for everyone. And remember, it is OK to let yourself feel what you’re feeling.