I recently arrived at Union Station greeted by Santa ringing a bell and shouting, “Merry Christmas. Everybody smile…remember it will be over in 2 weeks!”
‘Tis the season…do you feel extra pressure to be filled with joy? While this is a time of year for remembering the special moments of the past year and sharing gratitude with others, it can also be a mixed bag. Perhaps you experienced the loss of a loved one this year; maybe you lost or changed jobs, moved to a new city, or had other major life changes that are on your mind this time of year. Sometimes it’s easy to think you are the only one who is not having a magical holiday season.
Some combined wisdom of the past on how to cope with holiday blues still holds true.
Here are some helpful ways I counter the “holiday blues”:
Remember you are NOT alone
Chances are many people you know are also quietly wishing something could be different. Sometimes it helps to share your feelings with people you trust.
Set realistic expectations
While we may be dreaming of a white Christmas, we know making it happen is beyond our control. So too are the actions of our friends and families. The only thing we can control are our expectations. Perfection is not likely, so plan for the fact that you may not get your dream gift, or not everyone at the dinner table may be just as you remembered. The holiday season is a great time to think of ALGEE – the Mental Health First Aid action plan. Whether you encounter a crisis situation or not, remember that listening nonjudgmentally and giving reassurance will make you everyone’s favorite.
Indulge (moderately) and exercise
Tis the season…to eat and drink. You can enjoy an eggnog and a few cookies without feeling guilty, but remember everything in moderation serves us better in the long run. Counter that extra cookie with an extra walk around the block. A little exercise really will make us all better and able to enjoy the day.
Do something for others
This is not just a cliché. Sometimes being down or depressed can be very isolating and it can be easy to wallow in sadness…justifiably for sure. But the minute we place our attention on doing something for someone else, the chemicals in the brain really do change and we feel better.
Start a new tradition
When part of the joy of the season is connected with someone that is no longer in your life (either through death or separation), it may be time to do something new that will become a ritual of the future. If every year your tradition has been making cookies with Grandma Mary, and she passed away this year, instead of making cookies alone, either find someone else to continue the tradition or start a new tradition to honor their memory. Plant a tree, light a candle, visit their favorite place. Be careful to find something that will be comforting and healing.
Don’t be alone, unless you want to be
Sometimes it’s comforting to have a quiet day for special activities you have been wanting to do. Yet most of us would prefer to be with others. Make plans. Don’t wait till the last minute. Volunteering is a good idea.
And last but not least, no matter what the situation, as long as there is breath in our body, we have something to be grateful for. Be mindful of the moment and experience joy in the simplest of pleasures.
What are some strategies you use to counter the holiday blues? Share in the comments.