The holidays are a time for making memories, but sometimes those memories aren’t pleasant or joyful. As a child, I remember counting presents to make sure I had more than my twin brother on Christmas day. It was frustrating having a birthday near Christmas and getting gifts with a tag that had both of our names on it labeled: Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to the Twins!
These memories may seem trivial but are reminders that we shouldn’t spend our time and energy on trying to create the perfect holiday. No matter how much effort we put into planning the Thanksgiving meal, decorating the tree, buying the right gifts, having the brightest menorah, or sending out the perfect family card, our holiday experience can quickly evaporate if these things overtake the true spirit of the season, which is family, faith, and fun.
What are the Holiday Blues?
A recent article from WebMD notes the stress of balancing everything during the holiday season can create unrealistic expectations for us, resulting in depression and anxiety or a condition known as the “holiday blues”.
The holiday season can be an incredible time. However, for some of us, holidays are the last thing we want to experience for a variety of reasons. According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association almost 40% of Americans report being more stressed out during the holidays. The season may be a reminder of a holiday party they were not invited to, a memory of a traumatic experience or significant loss, or simply anxiety over trying to afford gifts for loved ones.
Coping with the Holiday Blues
So, what can we what to do avoid (or minimize) the ‘holiday blues’ and have more joy in the season? Consider the following:
- Keep the celebration simple! It doesn’t need to include the best meal, best gift, or best ensemble you wear at the party. Perhaps it is just bringing a good attitude and focusing on the parts of the holiday you enjoy the most. (For my kids, it’s the music, and for me it is the homemade food.)
- Appreciate the positive. Appreciation and gratitude are powerful emotions. It is easy to get annoyed with holiday cheer when you don’t feel it. It is also frustrating to be in the company of family or friends and hear all the positive things they are experiencing while you may be struggling. Where you can, think of all the things you are grateful for and let go of the rest. Don’t invite resentment and pain to your celebration.
- Share the joy. Some of us may feel an overabundance of blessings and joy around the holidays, so it seems only appropriate to share with others. I am always impressed when I see others invite friends or co-workers to celebrate with them because they may not have anywhere else to go.
- Take a break. We only add to the stress when we try too hard to make everything come off perfect for an event or holiday and forget to enjoy the moment. Everyone needs rest, so don’t forget to find a way to a take a break, even if it means asking for help.
- Focus on people. The holidays are about the people. Don’t get lost in the pomp and circumstance of the “stuff”. Focus on the people you care about, and you will do fine.
Another way to cope with the holiday blues is to seek professional help. If you are dealing with depression or anxiety about the holidays, please contact Lone Star Circle of Care at 887-800-5722 to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider who can refer you to a Lone Star Circle of Care Behavioral Health provider. We are here to help!
Blog post written by Jered Benedick, LCSW
Lone Star Circle of Care – Behavioral Health at Harker Heights
Casarella, J., MD, & Editorial Contributors, W. M. (2022, August 28). Holiday Depression and Stress. Retrieved November 12, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/depression/holiday-depression-stress
Butterworth, S. (2021, December 15). How to Cope with Holiday Stress. Retrieved November 13, 2023, from https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/how-cope-holiday-stress