Too Depressed or Stressed to Enjoy the Holidays?

Posted on January 15, 2009 by

How are you feeling right now, at this time of year? Do you feel like you have way too much to do? I know I do. On top of all the tasks we usually do every day, there are gifts to buy and wrap, parties to attend (or give), h’eour d’eouvres to make, perhaps a Christmas tree to buy or put together, decorations to get out of storage, sort out and put up, electric candle lights to replace when they burn out, school or church activities to attend with our children – you know what I mean. It can be stressful and exhausting.

On top of the increased demands on our time, and the associated stress, the holidays can be very tough emotionally for many people.There are a lot of expectations about the season. ‘We should feel happy, joyful, warm, loving and loved at this time of year.’ It is a time for family gatherings, loved ones, reconnection with our religious or spiritual upbringing.

But what if we don’t have a family, or are estranged from our family of origin? What if we have lost the ones we love? What if we are alone? What if we are widowed, divorced, or looking for that special someone? Then the holidays can be an intensely lonely time, a time of sadness, regret, questioning. Feelings of sadness or loneliness that may already have been present are magnified many times over during this time.

Thus many people are over-stressed and/or lonely or sad instead of happy and joyful. So what can help when this happens?

First, know that you are not alone. Many people feel this way. Resist the tendency to think there is something wrong with you.

When you catch yourself feeling depressed or sorry for yourself, change your thoughts to more positive thoughts. For example, if you are feeling lonely and thinking how alone you are, think about the people you know or have known. Remember how it felt to be with loved ones in the past. Talk kindly to someone in the grocery line who is clearly stressed out and impatient with their child. Make a list of all the things you can be grateful for. Call someone you haven’t talked to lately and just let them know you are thinking about them. Go online and find a chat room about a subject that interests you. Get some exercise.

Find a place to volunteer on the holiday most important to you. Soup kitchens and churches often put on big meals on holidays and can always use your help. Offer to babysit for a young mother and feel the joy the child is experiencing. You will discover you feel much better when you can help others. Try it and see.

Find a church, synagogue, temple or other house of worship and go to their services. Go to the one you usually attend. Or if you haven’t been lately, find one whose rituals feel familiar and trigger good childhood memories. Or, find one completely different from any you have ever attended and just enjoy noticing the differences and the uniqueness. Smile and say hello to the other members of the congregation. If you are not ‘religious’, simply reconnect with spirit in your own way. Meditate and give thanks for all your blessings. Bundle up and go for a walk outside.

If you are overstressed and exhausted, take a few minutes to sit down and make a list of all the tasks you need to do. Then prioritize them. Most likely there are some things on your list you would ‘like’ to do but that are not completely essential. Let go of the need to do everything you ‘always’ do, or to do everything yourself and for everybody else.

Ask for help and let go of the need for perfection. I was particularly short on time this year and asked my daughter to help me decorate the mantel and put up a garland over the fireplace. And voila, it was all beautifully done when I came home from work. Was it ‘exactly’ the way I would have done it? No, of course not. But it looks great, it got done, and I didn’t have to do it.

Do your best to prevent a situation that you know will be too painful for you. Two years ago I discovered my daughter would be traveling to Australia over Christmas. I knew I had to do something to protect myself from being totally alone on Christmas day as I would feel very lonely and sad being alone and without her for the first time in her life on Christmas day. I reminded myself I was glad she had the opportunity to visit Australia. Then I ended up getting myself invited to my niece’s house for Christmas day. She had a 6 month old baby who spent the entire day smiling and happy. It was impossible to wallow in my sadness with her grinning at me. Instead of being sad and lonely, I smiled all day.

Take extra special care of yourself during this often demanding season. Get some extra sleep, exercise, eat well and stay away from that tempting sugar or alcohol. Schedule a massage. In fact, ask for one for Christmas. Spend some time in contemplation about your life and what is great about it as well as what you would like to change. Avoid the trap of over doing it, feeling sorry for yourself, or allowing situations which will be too painful. You can find your own joy within you, in your own way, independent of the commercialization of the holiday, away from the hustle and bustle. Look within for the inner peace. Take care of yourself and if you are alone, help someone else even in some small way. It may save your life and allow you to Have A Wonderful Holiday Season!

Best Wishes for a ‘Joyous Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year’. May All Your Wishes Come True!

Debra Burdick, LCSW, BCN, also known as ‘The Brain Lady’, is an international expert on ADHD and Mindfulness. She is an award-winning, #1 best-selling author of: Mindfulness Skills Workbook, Mindfulness Skills for Kids and Teens, ADHD: Non-Medication Treatments and Skills for Children and Teens and Mindfulness for Teens with ADHD. She is an international speaker and retired psychotherapist and neurotherapist, who has been helping all ages thrive for over 30 years.

I would love to hear your personal experiences with this topic.

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