You hear old, familiar Christmas carols and rather than the joy you think you’re supposed to feel, you plunge into an overwhelming sadness, perhaps even tears, over memories lost or opportunities missed.
You get a feeling of dread starting around Halloween that grows each week as you lead up the holidays because, face it, your family is nothing like the Brady Bunch, and your holidays look nothing like one of those Currier & Ives lithographs.
Sound familiar? You may just have the holiday blues—and you’re far from alone.
The cause varies by individual, but the blues are typically brought on by fatigue and overwork, unrealistic expectations, family tensions, financial limitations and even the waning daylight hours that start at the beginning of the holiday season.
Experts agree there are strategies you employ to bring back the joy this season is supposed to represent. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Change your expectations
· Let go of the memories of idyllic childhood Christmases and the sometimes unrealistic expectations they can create.
· Be realistic about what you can spend and don’t be guilted or pressured to into overspending.
· Create some new traditions of your own.
Take care of yourself and don’t over-schedule your time
· Skip some optional parties.
· Do some of your shopping online.
· Enlist the family to help.
· Plan to get more rest.
· Don’t skip the exercise routine. Better yet, start a new one.
Call a truce
· Determine not to get into that yearly argument with your brother or to let your mother-in-law get under your skin.
· Try some of these strategies for letting go of resentments.
Find low- or no-cost ways to celebrate with family and friends
· Instead of providing all the food, ask guests to pitch in and bring something.
· Go caroling or sledding, or just take a walk.
· Make a scrapbook highlighting everything you have to be thankful for this year.
· Play a game.
· Volunteer to help serve a meal at a homeless shelter such
· Sign up to buy gifts for low income kids
· Invite someone to spend the holidays with you–perhaps someone with no in-town family or a lonely senior.
· Talk to your spiritual advisor or doctor.
· Look into your employer’s benefits program; many offer counseling resources.
Is it the blues or depression?
The holiday blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) go away, depression may not.
Some of the symptoms are the same, but depression is persistent and may still be there once all the decorations are put away and the sun is making more than a cameo appearance each day.
Symptoms of depression include an all-the-time sadness, lack of energy, headaches or digestive disorders, trouble concentrating or making decisions, and loss of interest in things that used to bring you pleasure.
If you think you might be struggling with depression, and especially if you find yourself thinking about suicide, seek emergency help right away, and talk to a physician as soon as possible. Depression is a chemical imbalance, not a personal failing.