Don’t let the holiday blues mar what should be a time of joy and love.
The holidays tend to introduce a bittersweet mix of joy and sadness into our normal lives. On the one hand, they’re a delightful time to gather together with people we love to share meaningful family and sacred traditions. But on the other hand, it is full of expectations and sentiment, loneliness and tension that often bring the dreaded holiday blues.
Some people approach the rush of gift buying, decorating and baking, parties and extra activities with excitement and anticipation. But memories of happier times and of loved ones who used to be a part of our lives can combine with overcommercialization of what once seemed beautifully simple and bring us to the dread and stress of the holiday blues as the days click off and the holidays draw near.
Symptoms of “Holiday Blues” can include headaches, muscle tension, problems with sleep, melancholy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and excessive thinking and worrying. This is not to be confused with clinical depression or seasonal affective disorder. Remember, these holiday blues are situational and short-lived. Shortly after the New Year begins, they will pass! And remember that many of these feelings are a normal response to a very stress-filled time of year. That being said, here are a few common-sense tips to help you manage those holiday blues and chase away the Grinch:
1. Watch your diet!
Most people start slipping into poor eating habits, especially with those extra sugar-and-fat-laden holiday goodies. This will only deplete your body of proper nutrients, adding to that run-down, stressed-out feeling. A healthy, balanced diet will strengthen a sense of well-being and give you the energy to manage extra responsibilities and keep your immune system resilient against seasonal colds and flu. Use caution to not overconsume alcohol; it’s a depressant. Moderation is the key to all drinking and eating.
Our regular exercise program is often the first thing to go when the schedule gets jammed. But we need those endorphins that get stimulated by physical activity to boost our faltering mood. There’s nothing like getting your blood pumping and your muscles working their hardest to encourage the feeling of “I can do it!” Moderate exercise will help you to get the replenishing sleep that you also need during stressful times.
3. Take quiet time
Though you may feel you must jump out of bed and start running through your day – and keep going until you drop to sleep, take a few minutes of quality time at the beginning and end of the day and intersperse a few breaks in the middle of the day for calmness and re-centering. Relax, breathe deeply and focus outside of yourself and away from your busyness. Pray, contemplate, meditate. Find a devotional reading to deepen your thoughts. Remember: “This too shall pass!”
4. Simplify and believe that “less can be more”
Holidays provoke perfectionism. We are led to believe that our gift, our food, our party will make or break someone’s Christmas. It is rarely true that someone is that fragile! Determine to not overextend your bank account or your energy trying to make everyone happy. Share responsibilities for food preparation, cleaning, gift buying, etc. You by yourself don’t have to do it all! Sharing the work can also be sharing the joy, especially when done together.
5. Organize and plan ahead
Start early in the pre-season weeks and months and pace yourself for events and gifts so that by the time you get to important events you will be not be exhausted by last-minute preparations and buying that could have been done days or weeks earlier.
6. Limit social gatherings
Make room for the truly meaningful gatherings. Some can be saved for after the holidays. Do you really “have to” say yes to every invitation or attend every event? Prioritize and set some healthy social boundaries for yourself.
7. Consider volunteering
When we’re in the rush to buy and get more it’s good to have reminders that we already have so much – and so do most of the people on our gift list. Volunteering and giving to those who can’t give back help us to value as our best treasures those things that are not tangible: kindness, caring acts, simple pleasures. Life shared with others is a blessing providing mutual happiness for giver and receiver.
Beat the holiday blues
Don’t let your expectations overshadow the reality; holidays are to be enjoyed! Finding a few common sense ways to manage your holiday blues and stress will enhance and deepen your experience and the memories thereafter.
Life is too short to let it be dragged down by the holiday blues. Enjoy!