Avoiding Holiday Stress
Although the holidays are supposed to be a time full of joy, good cheer and optimistic hopes for a new year, many people experience seasonal "blues". What's important to know is that there are steps you can take to help beat the blues this holiday season.
The "holiday blues" can be caused by many factors: increased stress and fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization and the inability to be with one's family. The increased demands of shopping, parties, family reunions and house guests also contribute to these feelings of tension. Even people who do not become depressed can develop other stress reactions during the holidays, such as headaches, excessive drinking, overeating and difficulty sleeping.
Although many people become depressed during the holiday season, even more respond to the excessive stress and anxiety once the holidays have passed. This post-holiday letdown can be the result of emotional disappointments experienced during the preceding months, as well as the physical reactions caused by excess fatigue and stress.
There are several ways to identify potential sources of holiday depression that can help you head off the blues:
Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable by not trying to make the holiday "the best ever". Set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the most important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
Remember that the holiday season does not automatically banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely. There is room for these feelings to be present, even if you choose not to express them.
Let go of the past. Don't be disappointed if your holidays are not like they used to be. Life brings changes. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don't set yourself up for sadness by thinking everything has to be just like the "good old days". Look toward the future.
Do something for someone else. It is an old remedy, but it can help. Try volunteering some time to help others.
Enjoy holiday activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations. Go window shopping without buying anything.
Don't drink too much. Excessive drinking will only make you more depressed.
Don't be afraid to try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a way you have not done before.
Spend time with people who are supportive and who care about you. Reach out to make new friends if you are alone during special times. Contact someone with whom you have lost touch.
Find time for yourself. Don't spend all of your time providing activities for your family and friends.
(Source: Mental Health Association of Colorado, Inc., 6795 East Tennessee Avenue, Suite 425, Denver, Colorado 80224 USA, Telephone: 303-377-3040; FAX: 303-377-4920)