Ho Ho Hum
So, you’re not thrilled about the holidays? Join the club.
More people break-up, file for divorce, or attempt (and often successfully commit) suicide during the holidays than during any other time of year. For many, the only thing stuffed in our Christmas stockings is pain.
Contrary to the anticipation and excitement we used to feel when we were kids, it’s not uncommon for adults to feel sad or lonely during the holidays … a condition known as the holiday blues or holiday depression.
Holiday depression can strike around any holiday, vacation or period of departure from our normal routine. Most of us feel it the strongest between Halloween and New Years, but for some it lingers through Valentine’s Day.
There are many causes of holiday depression, according to a University of Maryland study. All are compounded by one thing – LOSS … of a relationship, loved one or life style. The holidays are notorious for bringing that pain to the forefront; Its rituals trigger memories of holidays past and relationships/loved ones lost. Compound that with the financial stress we’ve recently experienced, the weight we’ve gained, our inclination to idealize traditional family, and any existing (strained) family dynamics … the disappointment can be overwhelming.
The good news is that the symptoms of holiday blues usually lift as soon as the holidays end or you are able to get into the groove of your old routine. The bad news is that sometimes, because of distance, deployment, divorce, disease or death, it’s impossible to return to life as we knew it. But alas … there’s hope!
How to handle the holiday blues … alone
- H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired): Eating regularly, moving your body and getting adequate rest is the equivalent of “OFF” for depression, making it 75% harder to feel and stay depressed.
- Get R.E.A.L. (Realistic Expectations About Loss): If you experienced a loss and you don’t feel at least light blue, that could be a sign that you might need professional help. Grieving is not only normal, it’s necessary, unless you plan on (subconsciously) venting on those who remain.
- Shift your F.O.C.U.S (Find Other Constructive Uplifting Solutions: Sometimes our willingness to do something different (perhaps something for someone else) is all it takes interrupt the feeling of depression.If done repeatedly you can re-route your depressive thought process, making depression a distant memory.
One of the most effective ways to move past the holiday blues is to move through them. Instead of kidding ourselves and trying to forget about the pain, we have the choice to embrace it by honoring those we’ve lost, appreciating what we have, and giving ourselves the time and permission to continue on.
Important Note: Because it’s difficult to discern between holiday blues, grieving, or a more serious case of depression (which requires professional attention and intervention to preserve life and prevent suicide) ask a professional to help you sort it out. If no doctor or counselor is available and you need immediate help, take advantage of the other resources in our community including the suicide prevention hotline, visiting the emergency room or calling 911.