The holidays are supposed to be joyous and merry.
And for many folks, they are.
It is a time for happiness and celebration.
However, the holiday season may also bring feelings of sadness. Memories of deceased loved ones, financial worries, stress and tension can turn holiday happiness into the holiday blues.
According to the American Counseling Association, there are a number of reasons why the holiday season can affect people in a negative way:
- Unrealistic expectations: The media and the barrage of advertising during this season give most of us an "ideal" image of what the holidays are "supposed" to be. Comparing our own lives to that Hollywood and advertising perfection, we may feel inadequate, left out, or as if we simply aren't getting our due.
- Poor diets: Candies, cakes, alcohol, and rich, high calories foods - it's all part of festive holiday eating and another cause of holiday depression. Adults are affected by "sugar highs" the same as kids. Then add in worries about gaining weight, or feeling guilty or being deprived because of what we do or don't eat, and you have more things contributing to that depressed feeling.
- Lack of exercise: Who has time for shopping, parties and still getting in some regular exercise? So we skip exercising, one of the best ways to feel better, both physically and mentally.
- Social withdrawal: Many people become less socially active under the pressure of the holidays and a growing sense of depression. It takes energy to go, so instead we choose to stay home, and then feel bored, sad and depressed about our self-imposed isolation.
Whatever the reason for these feelings, there are remedies and treatments available.
- Start by changing how you view holiday depression. Look at it as a project, something you can work at. Projects can be approached in small steps.
Begin your project with a more realistic view of the holiday season, advises the American Counseling Association.
Recognize that the idealized, perfect holiday scenes are not real life.
Why compare your own life to that fictionalized perfection?
- Choose a healthier diet. That doesn't mean avoiding all the special treats and old favorites of this time of the year, just use common sense and moderation. Have a little of the really special things, rather than a whole lot of everything. Keep alcohol consumption under control.
- Exercise. Try walking, low-impact aerobics and daily outdoor activity. Exercise, even in moderate amounts, will do wonders for your mental and emotional state. If you've been exercising regularly, don't stop for the holidays.
- Socialize. Let go of the past and don't be afraid to try something new. It is important to make an effort to attend some social functions. If you must, arrive late and leave early, but make the effort to go. When there, talk to people, and not about feeling sad about the season. Try acting as if you feel better about things than you really do - you may just find it's true.
- Spend time with people who are supportive and care about you. Don't just sit around and brood about feeling depressed. If you start feeling low, call a friend or go meet someone for coffee. Talk about common interests, new movies, the weather, but not depression.
- Make a list of things for which you are thankful. Focus on the positive aspects of life.