The holiday blues are not just catchy song lyrics. They are real. The documentation is substantial. We all know someone who has gone through them, a grandmother or other relative, a family friend, a college roommate, ourselves. The sadness, the painful sense of loss, the desire to flee from all the too-jolly holiday trappings and hide under the covers in bed until it’s over – we’ve all been there. Our expectations are never met, our visions of the perfect holiday dinner, the perfect gift, the perfect date, all dashed. We feel let down, duped, even used. We blame commercialism, consumerism, capitalism, our mothers. It’s bad.
And yet – we so want the season to go well, to be beautiful and fun, better than last year, better than ever. It’s wonderful to have something special to look forward to, to anticipate. Despite past disappointments, we love the countdowns, the colors, the lights, the stories, the silly hats, the ridiculous earrings. So let’s get a grip and see if we can’t chase the blues away. And if we can’t get rid of the holiday blues altogether, let’s at least find a way to manage them.
Staying the moment. Yes, this may sound too morning television bright and breezy, but give it a chance. We will be standing around a lot over the next few months, waiting in all sorts of lines. So use the time waiting constructively. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation suggests that you:
- Think about the meaning of the season and what you can bring to it.
- Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Are you ratty, frantic, driven? Do you find yourself scowling or being short or rude to others? Impatient? Start over.
- Let go of your agenda.
- Talk to the people around you. Engage. Interact.
- Breathe. Smile. Hold a door open. Let someone go ahead of you at the checkout counter. Tell a young mother how gorgeous her baby is. Be someone you yourself would like to be around.
- Being away from friends and family.
- Feeling isolated from others.
- Associating the holidays with a painful childhood experience or unresolved family matters.
- Thinking you ‘should be happy’ when you’re not.
- Having unrealistic expectations of family and friends.
- Coping with the loss, or impending loss, of a loved one with whom you have shared the holidays.
- Losses and disappointments over the past year that keep you from enjoying the season.
- Changes in the family or disruptions of traditions because of marriage, death or divorce.
- Drinking more than usual. Alcohol is readily available during the holidays; it is a depressant, after all.
- Spend time with people who care about you. This may sound obvious, but many times when we are feeling low, we hide. Do not isolate yourself. Sharing time with others is very comforting. And if you really are alone, then reach out to someone else in need.
- If there has been a loss recently, change the way you celebrate the first holiday season without him or her. Take a family cruise or vacation. Spend a week with friends. Do something completely different.
- Attend community gatherings or religious services. There are many options here: holiday concerts, tree lighting ceremonies, school pageants, choral performances, special masses, readings or prayers.
- Let friends and family know you are okay. If you aren’t okay, talk. Tell them what you need. Let them help you.
- Let yourself grieve. Reflect on your sorrows or losses. It may be far better to acknowledge the pain and loss – and survive them both – than to avoid them indefinitely.
- Make plans for the new year. Give yourself something challenging or fun to look forward to after the holidays. It could be the launch of a personal fitness campaign, a trip, a class at a local university, a new volunteer job, really anything positive.
- Get professional help if you need it. There is plenty of great help out there: talk to your doctor or health care provider, a mental health professional, a rabbi, priest or minister. Don’t see this as embarrassing or needy or a sign of weakness. And once you’ve healed, you can help others – which is a terrific gift, by the way.