Holiday Cheer or Holiday Blues?
The holiday season for most people is a fun time of the year filled with parties, celebrations, and social gatherings with family and friends. For many people, it is a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety. And for most of us it is some mixture of both.
Typical sources of Holiday Blues include:
· Unrealistic expectations
· Financial stress
· The inability to be with one's family
· Too much of one’s family
What gives one person the Holiday Blues may not affect another person. It is very personal, often based on a person’s stress management skills, boundary-setting skills, time management skills, and quality of family relationships.
I believe that a person’s spiritual beliefs strongly impact their ability to enjoy the holidays. When you think “holiday,” think “holy day.” December is a month that encompasses not only the Christian and Jewish celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah, but also includes spiritually significant days for Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans and Zoroastrians. It is truly a holy time of year.
For people in recovery from addiction the holidays can be a difficult time for many different reasons – stress, damaged relationships, lack of sober social skills, financial insecurity, lack of self-esteem, and the prevalence of alcohol in our celebrations. A simple, but very effective relapse-prevention tool is “HALT” – don’t let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. This is also a great tool for anyone hoping to avoid the Holiday Blues. Taken out of a recovery context, it is simply good self-care.
Tips for coping with holiday stress and depression:
· Make realistic expectations for the holiday season.
· Set realistic goals for yourself.
· Pace yourself.
· Do not put all your energy into just one day (i.e., Thanksgiving Day, New Year's Eve). The holiday cheer can be spread from one holiday event to the next.
· Live and enjoy the present. (One day at a time)
· Look to the future with optimism.
· Don't set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the “good old days” of the past.
· If you are lonely, try volunteering some time to help others.
· Find holiday activities that are free.
· Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
· Spend time with supportive and caring people. If you are in recovery, make time for support meetings.
· Reach out and make new friends.
· Make time to contact a long-lost friend or relative and spread some holiday cheer.
· Make time for yourself!
· Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks.
· Keep track of your holiday spending.
Here’s wishing you a safe and sane holiday season. May you both send and receive tidings of comfort and joy.