Monterey County Health Department’s Behavioral Health Bureau offers tips on coping during this holiday season
The holiday season can be a time full of joy, cheer, parties and family gatherings. But for many people, it is a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past disappointments and anxiety about an uncertain future.
What Causes Holiday Blues?
Many factors can cause the “holiday blues”: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends. The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions and house guests also contribute to feelings of tension. People may also develop other stress responses such as headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping. Even more people experience post-holiday let down after January 1. This can result from disappointments during the preceding months compounded by the excess fatigue and stress.
Coping with Stress & Depression During the Holidays
- Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities.
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Don’t put the entire focus on just one day (e.g. Christmas) or one event (e.g. visiting relatives) Remember that it’s a season of holiday sentiment, and activities can be spread out to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
- Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
- Holidays bring out memories both good and bad of past holidays, with every bad memory think of three good memories, everything from your favorite toy as a kid, to your funniest relative.
- Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some of your time to help others.
- Enjoy activities that are free, such as taking a drive to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping or making a snowperson with children.
- Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings whether it is depression or anger. Celebrating the holidays does not need to include alcohol, just ask any five year old!
- Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
- Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
- Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, or contact someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
- Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share in the responsibility of planning activities.
“Taking care of yourself goes a long way towards reducing stress”, stated Dr. Wayne Clark, Director of the Behavioral Health Bureau of Monterey County’s Health Department., “One of the best gifts you can give yourself during the holidays is to relax, find things to do that are enjoyable to you and take time to reflect on the things that bring you hope and joy.”