December 20, 2018
The holiday season is said to be the most “wonderful time of the year,” but not everyone would agree. After all, the holidays are super stressful. From the financial stress, to travel and time spent with extended family, it’s completely normal for some to feel a little down in the dumps during this hectic season.
Aside from stress, a big factor causing seasonal sadness, is the high expectation for a “happy, picture-perfect holiday season,” according to Sari Chait, Ph.D., a Boston-based clinical psychologist, Men’s Health reports:
“The expectation is often that everyone is coupled up happily, families are laughing and having fun together, and everyone can afford to buy whatever gifts they want," she says.
When that’s not someone’s reality, it is definitely possible for sadness to sink in.
Plus, this family-filled time of year can remind us of those that we’ve lost that aren’t around, which can, understandably, cause the onset of loneliness and, therefore, sadness.
But like most tough things in life, there are some tactics you can use to get on top and conquer the bad feelings you may be experiencing. Read on for some tips for keeping the holiday blues at bay this season.
First things first, you’ll want to figure out how to take care of yourself during this time, Dr. John Sharp, a psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, tells Health. He suggests coming up with restorative routines, such as reading a book or napping, and write them on a calendar — just be sure these things don’t get pushed back due to stressors like holiday shopping and baking. "Figure out what basics are going to help you get through the holidays and make them a priority," he adds.
The holidays don't have to be perfect or “just like last year.” The Mayo Clinic reminds that “as families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well.” You might want to choose a few traditions to hold on to, and be open to embracing new ones. “For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos,” Mayo Clinic explains. Volunteering is a great solo or family tradition to add into the mix this year.
The holiday season is chock full of social engagements. If you agree to every single one you’re offered during this short period, you’ll no doubt run yourself ragged. Not to mention the financial impact that could cause. “Overscheduling and not making time for yourself can lead to emotional breakdowns; learn how to say 'no,' and stay firm on your decision,” Healthline warns.
If you’re already having a hard time this holiday season, there’s no need to torture yourself. We know well that social media is directly linked to causing depression, so a brief break from your go-to apps during this time of year might be good — especially if you’re one to compare yourselves to others (and who isn’t). “A person’s feelings of well-being increase once they re-connect with others face-to-face,” says Tauber Prior, Psy.D. a clinical psychologist and owner of North Carolina-based Harborside Wellbeing for Men’s Health. Don’t feel like you need the full social media detox? At the bare minimum, put your phone away when you’re with friends to better enjoy the time.
Give yourself permission to not feel upbeat and festive, licensed psychologist Joy Harden Bradford tells MarketWatch. “It’s OK to honor what you’re feeling — not try to give into the pressure of faking like you’re happy if you’re really not,” she said.
There’s no need to let society or your family dictate how you should be feeling at any given time, let alone during the holidays.