For most, holidays signify joy and celebration. But for some people the holiday season is anything but joyful, and can be quite an odyssey in itself…
All of us, during the course of our lives, experience things both good and bad. The good stuff leaves us happy and on a high, and the lows leave us sad, achy and miserable. But what if the holiday season -- when everybody seems to be on a collective high -- leaves you with nothing more than a bad taste and a blue mood? We all can get depressed sometime or other, but strangely enough, all that the others find happy and cheering may just end up giving you a serious dose of the blues. Surprisingly, depression during or after the holidays is pretty common and exists mostly because of shorter days/less sunshine (for those of us in the northern hemisphere), isolation, unrealistic expectations, stress and anxiety and of course, a financial crunch. Let’s explore the reasons, and the tips to avoid getting depressed in the first place.
Too much on your plate
A stressful job, kids to look after, a social circle that never ends and the whole family descending down for Thanksgiving? While all this hubbub sounds exciting, when you get around to doing it all – its heaps of work for a day that flies by far too quickly. And once the excitement has died down, you find yourself standing in the corner of a now empty (if cluttered) room, feeling bewildered by it all.
The thing is, in all the rush to create that perfect family portrait, that perfect dinner, perfect gifts and playing the perfect host/hostess, you forget that life’s little but important things exist in its imperfections.
Don’t take on so much. If it’s high stress at your job, ask friends and family to chip in with the work. Give yourself time to enjoy what’s happening around you instead of you buzzing around at the speed of light - and missing all the cheer in the process. Be it your boss, friends or family -- if you have too much on your plate, it is okay to say NO. Remember to get in exercise, enough sleep and a healthy diet to make sure that you are at your physical best too. Take care of yourself.
The financial crunch
The bane of plastic money is that we tend to overspend - swipe this and swipe that with your card - only to be presented with a credit card bill that’s above our price range, only to realize that you are now in a serious cash crisis. Yep, that could give anybody the blues.
Before you go shopping for that exotic menu you have planned, or those gifts you just have to buy your friends and family, remember that the holidays were never about money or material wealth in the first place. The holidays are supposed to be about giving, sharing and caring from the heart, not from the bank. Make a budget and stick to it; spend only what you have allotted for each event, gift or charity. Cut back on the gifts or make some excellent DIY ones at home. Plan a wholesome meal. Pick some family recipes and enjoy the season in its true sense.
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Unrealistic and unfulfilled expectations
The movies and world around us tend to paint a ‘magical’ image of the holidays. The thing is, the strife that’s in your home will not just blow away because of the holidays. For some reason, we have a Norman Rockwell-type family expectation at this point, as do all our family members. So in fact, fights tend to be on an all-time high during the holidays; too much drinking and making merry tends to roil up emotions which are already not at their soothing best.
Don’t expect too much of a family dinner. Don’t expect everyone to just get along. What you can do at your end is remember that the holidays are all about forgiveness and love. Practice the same, but please, don’t preach it. Don’t want too much, and you won’t be disappointed. Families fight, and then make up; that’s how it is, even during the holidays!
Alone, and lonely
Be it a break-up with a loved one, or a move into a new city – there are times when the holidays bring nothing but a feeling of intense loneliness, and this can lead to subsequent depression. This is the time when you need and want your friends and family to be around and not having them can lead to a feeling of being isolated and unloved.
Staying alone and brooding is not the solution here as this will only aggravate the feelings of being alone. The solution is to reach out. If you’ve ended a relationship, reach back to the rest of your family for support. If it’s a new city, try and make a trip back to your hometown, or drag yourself to that office party to make new connections. Call or meet someone and at least a bit of your blueness will go away. Many cities and towns also have festivities going on, and there are tons of causes that could always use another volunteer. Volunteering is also a great way to put things into perspective, help others, and might even spark some feelings of gratitude for what you already have.
The feelings of bereavement
A recent loss of a loved one can really be rubbed raw over the holidays. Memories gush over as you look around at everyone having fun, and miss the person who is no longer amidst your family. The only balm for loss is time, but even then, you can cheer yourself and everyone up with just a few positive baby steps.
Begin a new tradition - if sitting around that table hurts too badly, with your eyes straying towards that empty setting - go out on a quick getaway and begin a new tradition. You cannot bring who you lost back, but you can continue living your life in a more positive way. Make new memories for yourself and your family.
Another good idea that can make you feel less sorry for yourself is to volunteer – be it at soup kitchens, charity events, donation drives or even just helping out a friend or neighbor in need. Helping others will go a long way in alleviating that hole in your heart.
For others, the holiday blues are more about a recurrent depression brought about by certain weather. They are affected by the leaves falling in autumn and their inexplicable blueness carries on through winters, often ruining the holidays for them. For such people, it's best to visit a therapist to talk their feelings over and get to any underlying causes. Light therapy and Vitamin D can also help improve mood for these folks.
Being around nature, going for walks, picnics or even digging in the backyard can help alleviate mood swings.
Extend your grace to yourself and to others around you – and have happy holidays! If you’ve struggled with something like this and would like to share your story, do write in to us in the comments section below…
Remember to seek help if you have been feeling sad and hopeless. If either your or anyone else’s feelings of sadness are accompanied by suicidal thoughts, call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).