COPING WITH ‘CHRISTMAS BLUES’ – ‘Tis the season for beating those holiday blues

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Featured, Health & Wellness

Published on December 18, 2019 with No Comments

 It’s the holiday season, so get ready for plenty of visitors, some of whom may be more welcome than others. One visitor no one wants yet many of us will have is the holiday blues.

How can this be? How, in this season of turkeys, Santa, gift giving, and the Christ child can anyone feel blue or blah?

According to Psychology Today, part of the holiday blues occurs due to stressfulness of the season, overdrinking, overeating, and fatigue. The holiday season brings many demands, including shopping, cooking, travel, houseguests, family reunions, office parties, and increased financial burdens.

All this added pressure can lead to headaches, insomnia, uneasiness, anxiety, sadness, intestinal problems, and unnecessary conflicts with family and friends.

Depending on the source, there are many ideas for coping with the holidays. Mayo Clinic suggests taking control of the holidays – taking steps to prevent the stress and depression that can come with the holidays.

Mayo recommends learning to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown.

As stated on the Mayo website, “with a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.”

Community Healthcare System’s Behavioral Health Services publishes a Holiday Blues guide around this time to help people learn how to cope with the stress of the season and learn the telltale signs of the holiday blues.

Psychiatrist Joseph Fanelli, MD, medical director of mental health services for Community Healthcare System, says the holiday blues are real.

“It’s not unusual to be blue this time of year,” Fanelli noted.

“The holiday blues are temporary feelings of anxiety or depression that are often linked with extra stress over commercialization and memories from holidays past,” he explained. Sometimes, the blues are caused by unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others. “For many, loneliness can be a normal feeling during the holidays, and the holiday blues will flicker out,” Fanelli said. “There is a difference between the holiday blues, which tend to go away, and a more serious condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder.”

The SAD disorder is a major depressive disorder that can make it difficult to function in a healthy way; left untreated, the mental distress can affect your job, family and friend relationships and life goals. If your sadness persists well after the holiday lights have been packed away, you may want to seek out a mental health or social service professional.

What are the signs of the holiday blues?

  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Persistent sadness and trouble making decisions
  • Excessive sleeping, eating and drinking.

So how do you address these issues?

Slow down and make time for yourself, suggested Fanelli. Re-think how you celebrate the holidays. Review your expectations based on relationships; build in time with supportive people. Exercise and get plenty of rest. Do something nice for someone else. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Avoid drinking too much at home or parties.

Also, Fanelli suggested that it may be time to create new traditions. Make and follow a budget. Organize your time, make lists and prioritize.

Other suggestions for beating the holiday blues include doing something for someone else, such as volunteering at a local soup kitchen or holiday event. Enjoy free holiday activities. Spend time with supportive people – “pick the winners,” Fanelli said, adding that the holiday season provides an opportunity to spend time with new people. Contact someone with whom you have lost touch.

Take advantage of ‘down’ time and try to understand yourself a little bit, Fanelli counseled. “Give yourself a break. Treat yourself as a special holiday guest.”

When it comes to coping with the holidays, Psychology Today offers this simple reminder: the choice is always yours.

As stated on Psychology Today’s website, we need to “revel in our gratitude for our bounty, health, hope, and our courage to face each day with hope and determination.”

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