Sunday, December 11, 2011

I feel ho-ho-horrible

Holidays blues and blahs... an all too common occurrence during what is supposed to be the most festive time of the year.  Sadly, statistics show it is a time when many people feel loneliest, and most depressed. cites what they consider to be the 'reasons' why one may feel icky this time of year:
  • Pressure to feel merry: Do you feel joyous when holiday decorations go up and store windows fill with gifts? If you don’t, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. The disparity between how you actually feel and what you think you are supposed to feel can cause you guilt and confusion. This phenomenon can start you off on the wrong foot, even before the festivities begin.
  • Remembrances of holidays past: Consciously or unconsciously, you have a mental record of previous holidays. Your mood may be contaminated by the specter of sad holidays past. If your current life circumstances are unhappy, however, you may long for the happy holidays you once enjoyed.
  • Reminders of loved ones lost: Holidays are a time for reflection. All too often your thoughts turn to beloved family members and friends who have passed away. The subsequent sense of loss you feel can spoil even the happiest of celebrations.
  • Loneliness: Holidays can be dreadfully lonely if you don’t have a significant other. Additionally, separation from family members (emotional or geographic) can be particularly painful at this time of year.
  • Financial hardship: One of the joys of the holiday season is to give to others. If your financial resources are severely limited at this time of year you are likely to feel insufficient, and as though you are “on the outside looking in.”
  • In search of sunlight: Many people are adversely impacted by the relative loss of sunlight they experience during the winter months. This phenomenon even has a name: seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Your holiday blues will only be exacerbated by limited sunshine.

To the wise and learned folk at PsychCentral, I lovingly respond, "Rubbish, balderdash, poppycock!" Not that I am actually discounting their research -- it's just that I know from my own experience that regardless of circumstances, the holidays needn't be a gloomy time.

Here is what PsychologyToday suggests in the way of 'practical' blues-beaters:

  1. Be reasonable with your schedule. Do not overbook yourself into a state of exhaustion--this makes people cranky, irritable, and depressed.
  2. Decide upon your priorities and stick to them. Organize your time.
  3. Remember, no matter what our plans, the holidays do not automatically take away feelings of aloneness, sadness, frustration,anger, and fear.
  4. Be careful about resentments related to holidays past. Declare an amnesty with whichever family member or friend you are feeling past resentments. Do not feel it is helpful or intimate to tell your relative every resentment on your laundry list of grievances. Don't let your relative do that to you, either. If you need help with unburdening yourself of your investments, check out these seven strategies for giving up resentments.
  5. Don't expect the holidays to be just as they were when you were a child. They NEVER are. YOU are not the same as when you were a child, and no one else in the family is either.
  6. Feeling like you are under scheduled or under planned for the holidays? Volunteer to serve holiday dinner at a homeless shelter. Work with any number of groups that help underprivileged or hospitalized children at the holidays. There are many, many opportunities for doing community service. No one can be depressed when they are doing community service.
  7. Plan unstructured, low-cost fun holiday activities: window-shop and look at the holiday decorations. Look at people's Christmas lighting on their homes, take a trip to the countryside, etc.--the opportunities are endless.
  8. If you drink, do not let the holidays become a reason for over-indulging and hangovers. This will exacerbate your depression and anxiety. Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol is a depressant. People with depression shouldn't drink alcohol", says Sherry Rogers, MD, in her 1997 book on "Depression."
  9. Give yourself a break; create time for yourself to do the things YOU love and need to do for your physical and mental wellness: aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, spiritual practices, taking long fast walks or any activity that calms you down and gives you a better perspective on what is important in your life.
  10. Most of all, if you find yourself feeling blue just remember: The choice is always yours: The sky is partly sunny, and the glass is half full and revel in our gratitude for our bounty, health, hope, and our courage to face each day with hope and determination.

All of these tips make perfect sense and should do wonders in breaking you out of a holiday funk... but what if after following this helpful list you still feel hollow, or at least, somewhat downtrodden? 

Ahhhhhhh that is where the spirit of grace and peace that fuels the season comes into play.  The holidays are about giving... truly giving... as an outward sign of gratitude for the abundant proofs of love in our lives, whether those proofs be in the form of 
a beloved pet, 
good friends, 
employment - even if underpaid or not paid at all, 
transportation - whether it be a car that runs, the metro, a bike or your own two feet,
a roof overhead - even if it leaks, 
opportunities to be of service to others.

About two millennia ago a brilliant star radiated in the east, signalling an event of such enormity that it grew into one of the most widespread belief systems known to man; and the celebration of it inspired society's most popular holiday traditions today.

May the healing star of universal infinite love glow in your heart this season... and just like that beloved green Grinch Dr. Seuss rhymed about, you may very well find that your heart grows 3 sizes in one day.

holiday hugs & candy kisses, 

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