While the holiday
season is "the most wonderful time of the year," as the song goes, for many of
us it can be the most hazardous emotionally. By examining the underlying
factors that contribute to the holiday blues, we are more likely to avoid or
minimize their impact.
Also, as we
recognize how those around us may be affected by the emotional undertow of
holiday frenzy, there is a marvelous opportunity to strengthen friendships and
families. Offering our understanding and support is the most powerful and
meaningful of holiday gifts. These are truly the gifts that keep on giving.
And they're on sale every day.
Much of the
emotional dissonance of holidays centers on confused expectations. There is so
much press to "be happy," to have the perfect holiday, that we put too much
responsibility on ourselves. It is easy to confuse frenzy with happy rather
than look at where the joy really is in our lives. The enormous commercial
influence of the holidays would have us believe that things make us happy,
leading to overspending and a post-New Year's credit hangover.
It can be a
fruitful and eye-opening exercise to clarify expectations with loved ones as
to where they find joy in their lives. Let this be the guiding star of
Christmas. If that new digital camera would lead to artistic creativity or
shared enjoyment, it may be more relevant than the frenetic video game.
A holiday is a
significant anchor for a boatload of feelings and memories that are elicited
by all the seasonal rituals and songs. Often these memories are confused or
can be unsettling. Those of us who have experienced troubled relationships
growing up or had losses during holiday seasons past are especially
vulnerable. Perhaps the holiday season hearkens back to times that were better
or more seemingly fulfilling. For those of us who struggle with holiday blues,
it is essential to talk about these crosscurrents.
One of my
favorite holiday movies is called, "Home for the Holidays." In the final
scene, actress Holly Hunter turns to her "sister" and says, "Hey, we don't
have to like each other, we're family." This scene speaks volumes about the
contradictions of family life and certainly puts the fun in "dysfunctional."
challenge is to really clarify our expectations around family life so as not
to set ourselves up for disappointment. If family getting together means a
usual dance of conflict, it is unlikely to change because it's a holiday.
Maybe there is an opportunity for you to change the dance steps so as to make
the outcome different this time.
practice, I worked in community mental health clinics where the time period
after the holidays was difficult for many. Consider extending your calendar of
social activities into the new year to avoid the letdown that comes when the
holiday cheer is over and the gifts start to lose their shine. This is the
period when the warm winter glow of the carols turns just plain cold and
it is the season for reflection and spiritual rejuvenation. The holiday
season, whether we celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza or Ramadan, is a time
to both look back on our lives and forward into the future with a rekindled
spirit and purpose for living. The holidays represent a "reality check" on our
values, which can lead to a deeper meaning and satisfaction in our lives.
Tips for avoiding holiday blues
Talk over and clarify with
loved ones what would make their season bright.
Try and keep your sleep
patterns as normal as possible.
Set a budget and stick to it,
avoiding a credit hangover.
Participate in worship
services and in opportunities for community service.
Avoid alcohol abuse,
remembering that alcohol is a nervous-system depressant.
Have talks with friends and
family about where to find joy in your lives.