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Make This Holiday Season More Buoyant Than Blue

The holiday season often inspires feelings of joy, gratitude, and belonging. But for some, this time of year can evoke feelings of loneliness, loss, and inadequacy. 

There is no lack of popular and scholarly attention to the “holiday blues” and how to “beat them.” However, instead of viewing the “blues” as something to conquer, I, and many of my behavioral health colleagues suggest we acknowledge these feelings, listen to what they are telling us, and get the help we need.

Here are some suggestions everyone can practice during the holidays:

Stay Connected | Spend time with those you care about. While time alone may be a welcome break from the constant stream of holiday gatherings, you should not retreat to complete solitude as it can make your feelings of loneliness worse. Call a distant relative or reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Be Reasonable | Establish realistic expectations for events, meals, travel, and gift exchanges. Forget about the perfect gift. It’s the thought that counts. Remember the simpler, the better.

Be Frugal (but not a Grinch) | It is important to establish a modest budget and stick to it. Don’t
overspend too much this holiday season. Be generous and hospitable, but not decadent.

An Attitude of Gratitude| Take time each day to reflect (either privately or with others) and be thankful for the blessings in your life. There are no small blessings, only an underappreciation of those that exist. Start simple: health in body, mind, spirit; family; friends; housing; food; clothing; opportunities; freedoms, etc.

Giving | While it is always nice to receive during the holidays, perhaps the most rewarding experience is to give of our time, treasure, or talent to those less fortunate. Studies have shown that the act of giving in a meaningful way is more fulfilling than the act of “getting.” Help a neighbor with a meal or shoveling; volunteer at a food pantry or other event.

Eat Drink and Be Merry (within reason) | Yes, the holidays are a time of indulgence, but do so wisely. Be aware that alcohol is a depressant and will not help one’s blues become any lighter; actually quite the opposite. So be prudent. While foods rich in fat, sugar, and salt can be soothing, they are also addictive and should be enjoyed in moderation.

Exercise | If you are regularly active, maintain your fitness routine. If you are not normally active, get up and do something sustained and rigorous for at least 30 minutes per day. There is no better way to regulate blood sugar, stress hormones, and metabolism. In parts of Europe, it is customary to go for a short walk after each meal (la passegiatta in Italy). Enjoy your meal, wait 30 minutes, then take a 15-20 minute walk with your guests.

Go Light on Social Media | As tempting as it may be to post holiday photos and peruse those of your Facebook friends, social comparison can be a double-edged sword and can strengthen our feelings of inadequacy. Remember, people only post depicting their best moments, and their best is rarely that great. 

Plan for the Post-Holiday Lull | While holiday blues are a reality that affects many, just as challenging can be the letdown after New Year’s has passed. The short-daylight and cold temperatures between early January and late March can be bleak. Find some events to attend or plan one of your own. Again, stay active!

There is a difference between the holiday blues, which typically go away when the holiday season ends, and more severe depression, which lasts longer and interferes with activities of daily living. If the holiday season passes and you’re still feeling depressed or anxious, it’s best to consult with a medical professional. Learn more about DKH's behavioral health services or call us at 860-963-6385.

Related Resources 
Behavioral Health Services at Day Kimball
Your Health & Wellness: Articles from the Experts

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