It’s December…already! If 2020 seemed like a voided year, then 2021 seemed liked a year that raced by as though trying to make up for the lost moments from the year before. We are in the middle of moving so the merry reminders of the Christmas season are not in my home. I am thankful for my daughter, Brooke. She has had her home decorated since the beginning of November. She has also purchased her gifts. They were wrapped and nestled under the tree. I love sitting in her home to “feel” Christmas. However, I also feel a little stress in the moment as I have yet to buy one gift or even even know if I will be moved by then.

I acknowledge this stress and think like Scarlett O’Hara, “There will always be tomorrow.”

The holidays can be a time of frenzy inducing stress and even sadness. Yes, the “Holiday Blues” are real. The symptoms of the “Holiday Blues” can overlap with those of depression. However, they are characterized by a shorter duration and are frequently associated with unmet expectations. Personally, I relate to this last statement. We have a large family and when gathered under one roof, our human frailties invariably reveal themselves. My “perfect” holiday becomes less than perfect. I am learning to adapt to this truth which my husband certainly appreciates.

Many factors contribute to the merry and bright being neither merry nor bright for many individuals. The National Alliance for Mental Health reports in another survey that the holidays resulted in 68% feeling financially strained, 66% experienced loneliness, 63% felt an overwhelming sense of pressure, and 55% reported happier times in past holidays compared to the present. 

If you find yourself in this majority, there are steps you can take to make the end of the year as enjoyable as the beginning. 

  • Set realistic expectation for yourself and others.
  • Evaluate your calendar and learn the art of the word, “no”.
  • Limit time on social media and avoid the trap of self-comparison
  • Schedule time for self-care and downtime
  • Have a budget and stick to it. In our household we went from gifts for everyone to gifts by drawing names
  • Engage in outdoor activities
  • Create new family traditions that are relational.
  • Acknowledge your feelings to someone else.
  • Volunteer as a family.
  • Keep healthy habits and remember that alcohol is a depressant.
  • Avoid isolation to keep from transmitting your emotions to others.
  • Acknowledge your feelings to others. 
  • Identify ways to share the work of holiday planning.
  • If you notice symptoms began before the holidays and are related to the time of year, consider evaluation by a mental health professional for diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder which is treated with light box therapy.
  • If symptoms persist, seek help.

This year many have lost loved ones due to the pandemic and other causes including their own, December 22nds. Grief, Complicated Grief, Depression, and loneliness will be more prevalent. Care for yourself, your loved ones, and those who may be alone during this holiday season. Develop a mindset that perfection is the enemy of joyous, and commercialism is the enemy of simple, easy holidays. The Holiday Blues are common; however, we can choose a different kind of holiday season. Let’s make merry and bright, truly merry and bright together.

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