The holidays are a joyous time for many, a happy chance to be with family and friends in the glow of warm light and good food. But for a number of people, the holidays can be a time of isolation, a series of stressful encounters with family members, or an increase in debt and worry. And all of us can feel a post-holiday hangover when the fun is done and it’s time to go back to school and work.
Read on for some ideas on how to beat the holiday blues — both during and after the season’s joys and stresses.
Set reasonable expectations
One way to avoid holiday depression is to attempt to make experiences around this time of year as easy on yourself as possible. Try to get gift shopping finished early and at moderate expense. Setting out to make this “the best holiday ever” when there is simply no extra money to do so is a prescription for increased stress. Consider preparing homemade gifts, agreeing not to exchange expensive gifts with family members, or having a gift lottery, where each person buys for the one person whose name they draw out of a hat. And try to keep your plans manageable for holiday events, so executing them won’t wear you out.
Start new traditions
There are number of major triggers for holiday depression, one of the most powerful being the sentimental association with holidays gone by, sparking either good or bad memories. Break the cycle by trying something new. If you or someone close to you has suffered through sad events during the previous year, try a complete change of venue for the holidays. How about renting a mountain cabin this year instead of gathering at the usual family home? Or head to the beach! Try sushi or gourmet sandwiches — anything new and enjoyable for you — for your big holiday meal. Striking out on a fresh path can deliver a positive footing for the years of holidays ahead.
Give to others
Helping others in need is a powerful activity—one that lifts up the giver as much as the recipient. One sure-fire way to reroute your own holiday stress is to spend time with people who are in more dire situations than yourself. Offer your time for a toy or food drive, visit a nursing home, or take a shift in a soup kitchen. The resulting perspective check, sense of community, and satisfaction you feel will be your best holiday gifts.
Make it work for you
If you feel frazzled at the prospect of cooking for a dozen people again this year, simply don’t do it. Opt for a potluck meal instead, or see if another relative can host. And if you are dreading your annual encounter with a relative or other individual who makes you feel bad about yourself, make other plans. You can choose to make this the year you spend a happy and healthy time with good friends or other family members who don’t stir up strife in your life.
Try to keep the two or three days before going back to work or school free so that you and your family can take a breath and put your home — and your minds — back in order for the New Year. Hold on to the thread of the good times you had during holiday gatherings with out-of-town friends and family by sending photos and videos of your time together once January arrives. And keep the good feeling of the charitable work you did during the holidays going by making community service a regular part of your whole year. These can be gifts that keep on giving.
Even with things going our way, the holidays can make us blue. Add to the season the stress of “having fun” and “being happy” — and the inevitable exhaustion when it’s all over – and anyone might become a candidate for holiday depression. Take a relaxed pace, be honest about what makes you happy, and establish some new traditions for yourself: these are healthy prescriptions for keeping holiday blues at bay.
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