Beating the Holidays Blues

How Women Can Cope More Effectively with Feelings of Sadness During the Holiday Season.

The holiday season is upon us.  The period of time from Thanksgiving to New Years is full of social gatherings with friends and family; baking cookies for office and/or school parties; and shopping for gifts.  For many people, holidays can be joyous, but sometimes, they can also bring stress, anxiety, and sadness that can be difficult to shake off.  Often, anticipation and excitement turn into depression, commonly referred to as the “Holiday Blues.”  This can be accompanied by feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, and/or irritated.  The Holiday Blues can, at times, be unexpected and unsettling.  Many women who experience a feeling of sadness during the holidays may feel that something must be wrong with them because they “should” be happy.

Although experiencing the Holiday Blues can be intense and troubling, these feelings are generally short-lived, lasting only a few days or weeks around the holidays.  The key to coping with the Holiday Blues effectively so they do not ruin your holidays, is to understand beforehand what may trigger them, and how to respond to them when they occur.

What can trigger the Holiday Blues?

The Holiday Blues can be triggered by a number of events, thoughts, experiences, or anticipation of events to come.  Below are some of the most common reasons people feel sad during the holiday season:

    • Increased stress placed on women with a more hectic holiday lifestyle:  cooking, shopping, organizing parties, over-eating, lack of sleep, etc.
    • Sadness over the loss of a loved one, especially if it is the first holiday since the loss.
    • If you have experienced other losses recently, the holidays can remind you of them and make you sad. These losses can include a miscarriage, loss of the dream to be a parent (after failed infertility treatment), separation, or divorce.
    • Reflecting on the past year’s accomplishments and failures and feeling that there have had more “failures” than accomplishments.
    • If you are lonely, seeing “happy families” having a good time can make things worse.
    • Family issues:  Not being able to be with your family or being pressured to live within your “toxic” or strained family dynamics.
    • Financial pressure to buy gifts due to the commercialization of holidays.

IF you find yourself experiencing the Holiday Blues, here are some suggestions that may help you cope:

  1. Try to identify what may be causing you to feel stressed, irritable, sad, or depressed.  What worries you the most?  Is it the family gatherings?  Or, is it the list of gifts you feel you need to give?  Or, the number of parties you feel pressured to attend?  Identifying what may cause your feelings is the first step in managing them.
  2. Be reasonable with your schedule.  Do not overbook yourself to the point where you end up in a state of exhaustion.  You do not have to volunteer to host parties or bake cookies for your child’s Christmas party.  Avoid agreeing to do things that can make you feeling cranky, irritable, or depressed.
  3. If you have recently lost a loved one, honor the deceased by creating a ritual.  For example, you might place a lit candle on the table at the holiday meal to remember your loved one.  If you have lost a pregnancy or are still longing for a child that you have not yet had, you may want to light a candle to honor the spirit of your baby-to-be.  Do not ignore your feelings- discuss them with family and friends.  This can help you grieve and help all those involved begin healing.
  4. If traditions remind you of painful memories, feel free to change them if you think it will help.  For instance, instead of putting a Christmas tree inside, put it outside.  If you are still not pregnant and want to avoid your pregnant relatives, have an intimate dinner with your partner rather than with the whole extended family.
  5. If you have a “toxic” family or relatives that you wish you could avoid, limit the amount of time you spend with them- or avoid them altogether, if need be.  If you feel you must attend a family gathering that will cause distress, surround yourself with people that can support you if any conflicts arise.
  6. Volunteer:  Sometimes you can push through your bad feelings by finding activities where you can connect with, or help others.  Volunteering to serve holiday dinner at a homeless shelter can make you feel really good about the holidays.  You might choose to work with any number of groups that help underprivileged or hospitalized children.  There are many opportunities for doing community service during the holiday season.
  7. Give yourself a break.  Create time for yourself to do the things YOU love and need to do for your physical and mental well-being.  Plan some alone time.  Big holiday parties can have a level of energy and exuberance that can be taxing.  Spend some time alone so you can recharge your batteries, even if it is only a few minutes you take for yourself.
  8. Stay healthy.  Take care of yourself better than you usually do.  Eat well- not too much; do not skip your exercise; and get enough sleep.  Too much sugar will leave you feeling cranky and tired. Avoid alcohol- alcohol is a depressant and will not help your mood.

If your best efforts to be upbeat during the holidays do not work and you find yourself feeling down, get help.  Do not try to “tough it out” alone.  Getting help from an experienced counselor can make a significant difference.

Call me for a FREE ten-minute consultation at (281)267-1742.

Dr.Irena Milentijevic is a licensed psychologist who specializes in helping mothers and those hoping to be mothers overcome stress, loss, and depression.  Her offices are located in Houston and the Woodlands, Texas.  Visit her website at: www.DrIrena.com to get her free report, “Moms and Mom Wannabes: 10 Ways to Overcome Depression and Reclaim Your Sanity”.

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