For many the holidays bring up nostalgic memories of family fun and good cheer. For others it can be a time of loneliness, sadness, and depression. Unfortunately, the holiday blues are a very real phenomenon.
Here are some of the risk factors of holiday depression,
and how you can avoid them!
Comparing Your Insides to Someone Else’s Outsides
Both in real life and on social media, it can be difficult to avoid comparing yourself with others around Christmastime. If you have a less-than-perfect family, a past trauma from this time of year, or just a less-than-full holiday dance card, comparing your holiday experience with those of others is a recipe for increased sadness and isolation.
Often, these comparisons tend to be skewed — and they tend to make us feel bad about ourselves. That’s because a person’s basis for comparison is not based in reality. Why? Because – bottom line – most families have issues of some sort or another! I know mine did. And most people didn’t have the perfect Christmas that they would like to have had, or even remembered that they had. So ease up about comparing yourself to the Christmas others had in the past and begin to plan for a good Christmas experience for YOU this year.
Slacking on Self-Care
For many people, December is the busiest time of the year. When work pressures pile up and the calendar gets full with social obligations, the routines that normally keep us healthy and happy — yoga class, morning runs, healthy home-cooked meals, a meditation practice — are usually the first thing to fall by the wayside.
In addition to increased stress, eating poorly and drinking excessively can also exacerbate issues like stress, anxiety and depression.
“Take care of yourself and don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
Try these suggestions:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese, or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
I would like to emphasize the importance of avoiding binge drinking. Alcohol is everywhere during the holidays! If you’re struggling with feeling down, it may be wise to avoid drinking as much as possible because alcohol is known to worsen, not relieve, symptoms of anxiety and depression.
No “ME” Time
Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
Some options may include:
- Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Getting a massage.
- Reading a book.
Experiencing Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
If you tend to start feeling down when winter approaches each year, and those negative feelings don’t go away after the holidays are over, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Many people who think they are suffering from a case of holiday blues may actually be suffering from SAD, a form of depression that’s brought on by the change of seasons. Many people miss the exposure to natural light and can sink into sadness. But SAD shouldn’t be dismissed as mere “winter blues.” Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of this disorder to find a treatment that works for you. Also you might look into full spectrum lighting. Full spectrum lighting duplicates the visible wavelengths of sunlight at noon and uses both high clarity and balanced color phosphors. It has helped many people overcome SAD.
Family Grievances and Conflict
The holidays are a great time to be tolerant and set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations.
Declare an amnesty with whichever family member or friend for whom you feel past resentments. It’s seldom helpful to tell your relative about every resentment on your laundry list of grievances, especially during the holiday celebrations. And don’t let your relative do that to you, either!
Try to be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
If you know there are going to be conflicts, prepare a neutral response, such as, “Let’s talk about that another time,” or, “I can see how you would feel that way.” Then escape to the restroom, offer to help in the kitchen, or go hang out with the kids. And it always helps to call a good friend if you need a sympathetic ear.
Post-Christmas Credit Card Bills that Put You in a Tailspin.
To avoid the after Christmas sticker shock create and stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
Try these alternatives:
- Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
- Give homemade gifts.
- Start a family gift exchange.
I have a large extended family. Years ago we decided to have a family Christmas get-together the Saturday before Christmas with a family gift exchange. We set a price and it’s been working great ever since. It’s made my life easier, and we still enjoy the holiday fun!
Missing the Holiday Action
Feeling like you are under-scheduled or under-planned for the holidays?
This is a great time to help others, and make some friends while doing it. Volunteer to serve holiday dinner at a homeless shelter. Work with any number of groups that help underprivileged or hospitalized children at the holidays. Sing in a choir that visits hospitals or senior residences. There are many opportunities for doing community service. It’s hard to be depressed when you are doing community service. Helping others can be a great high, and it builds self-confidence too.
If the holidays are challenging for you, please give me contact me at 415-819-8769, or email Joy@joyreichard.com for a complimentary 30-minute Consultation. Find out how Healing with Joy can help you have a merrier holiday season.
I picked up my 80-year-old shopping buddy at 8:30 AM and we shopped till we dropped! We finally drove back to her house to drop her off with all her packages at 7:45PM! We scored! And had lots of fun doing it! It’s been our annual tradition for the past few years.
I have great memories of holidays. My parents, though not wealthy by any means, took pleasure making the holidays special. There would be a lot of secrecy, and shouts of “don’t come in this room” when my sister or I would try to barge in. Of course we were curious about just what were they doing in there!
We decorated the tree together as a family with lots of laughter and fun. Then Christmas morning we’d get up really early. Wide eyed with anticipation we’d gaze impatiently at all the colorful presents anxious for our parents to finally get up.
I have fond memories of the holidays… But, unfortunately, not everyone does.
While colorful images of merriment and joy fill storefronts, TV screens and magazines, for many the reality of the holidays isn’t so cheerful. Between stressful end-of-year deadlines, family dysfunction and loss, poor eating and drinking habits, and increasingly cold and dark winter days, it’s not unusual for the holiday season to feel not-so-merry-and-bright.
Constant reminders of the holidays being a merry time for ‘others,’ can serve as a painful reminder of all that might be lacking for some. For this reason, the month of December can be a particularly difficult time of year. This is especially true for those dealing with family conflict, loss, break-ups, divorce, loneliness, illness, and mental health issues.
Feelings of depression and negativity affect many people at the holidays. Unfortunately, the holiday blues are a very real phenomenon.
Here are some of the risk factors of holiday depression,
and how you can avoid them!
Setting up unrealistic expectations.
“People have this anticipation or fantasy of the holiday that you would see on TV,” psychiatrist Dr. Mark Sichel, author of Healing from Family Rifts, tells The Huffington Post, adding that his practice gets much busier after the holidays. “Actually, it’s never exactly as people anticipate and it’s often disappointing. There’s often strife within families that comes out at holiday times.”
When it comes to family, it’s especially important to manage expectations during the holidays and avoid hoping for things to be perfect. If holidays tend to be a time of conflict in your family, or you’ve recently experienced the loss of a loved one, putting pressure on your family to all get along or to be cheerful could lead to disappointment and additional anxiety.
Being mindful of what you do have to be thankful for — your sister who always makes family gatherings bearable, getting a week off of work, or just the promise of a fresh start with the beginning of the new year — can help combat feelings of deficiency and lack. “Realize that the holidays do end — and take stock of what you can be grateful for,” says Sichel. “Having gratitude is probably the best antidote against depression.”
Trying to do too much
During the holidays, the pressure of trying to do everything (i.e. planning the perfect holiday, trying to make it home to see your family, saying yes to every event, meeting those year-end deadlines) can be enough to send anyone into a tail spin. And if you’re prone to anxiety and depression, stress (and a lack of sleep) can take a significant toll on your mood.
A heightened pressure of trying to get everything done perfectly, and the fear of not being able to get it all done, are some of the most common triggers for the holiday blues, Sichel states.
“Being bogged down by perfectionism” can contribute to feeling down, says Sichel. “Many people feel they just can’t do the right thing, that family members are always disappointed in them.”
Planning Something Special for Yourself
Being a single adult with two grown sons I learned through trial and error to ensure that I did something special for me during the holidays. Sometimes it’s a splurge shopping spree the day after Christmas with my shopping buddy, Barbara. This always includes a nice lunch, and maybe dinner, as we delight in our great buys and each other’s company.
At other times it’s planning a special treat like the ballet or symphony, or even a walk on the beach. And once in a while I will plan a special trip with a traveling buddy. This year I’m going to San Diego with my friend Cynthia! Other people deal with holiday blues by having a Christmas gathering for all the other people who don’t have a place to go.
Missing those nostalgic Christmases when the kids were young, or regretting not even having those memories, can cast a gloom on the holidays. By asking yourself “what would make ME happy this holiday season,” you can come up with some creative ideas to have your own heart-warming Christmas experience.
Check back next week for some additional ideas on how to maintain good cheer during the holidays.
If the holidays are challenging for you, please contact me at 415-819-8769, or email Joy@joyreichard.com for a complimentary 30-minute Consultation. Find out how Healing with Joy can help you have a merrier holiday season.
This is the time for Thanksgiving Reflections of gratitude for the abundance in our lives. Yet many times our attention turns to what we don’t have rather than what we do ‑ and for good reason! The season of non-stop shopping is almost here.
With Thanksgiving the race to get ready for the next round of holidays begins. Thursday we will be celebrating the season of plenty. Then, with the advent of the first official days of Christmas shopping, we enter five frenetic weeks of searching, finding, ordering, and buying those perfect gifts for our loved ones. We go from celebrating abundance and gratitude at Thanksgiving to experiencing the overwhelming requests of needs, wants, and desires.
Before we head to the mall, some reflection would do our souls good, not only to count our blessings, but to continue focusing on them. Money will be spent on many things in the next few weeks, but it can’t buy the most important gifts: good health, a loving relationship, close family ties, caring friends and community, the fulfillment of creative expression, and inner peace.
We often forget these things, not because we are ungrateful, but because we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. The things that money can buy will never fill the deep need within us for acceptance, love and connection
How about making a commitment this Thanksgiving and throughout the holidays to do it aa bit differently this year? I know it’s good for the economy for consumers to madly spend money. It fuels our capitalistic system. But few of us really need more stuff! Most of our closets, drawers, and garages are already stuffed with things. Way too many things
Sadly it only takes an hour or two to open all the presents bought during the five week holiday spending spree. Hours of shopping for a couple of hours of surprises and pleasure! Does this really make sense?
So why not do things a bit differently this year? We can scale down the Holiday spending splurge. Instead we can hold on to those Thanksgiving feelings of gratitude a bit longer by generously reaching out to those around us with feelings of well-being, tolerance and compassion.
Did you know that it takes fewer facial muscles to smile than to frown? So why not practice smiling more, being kinder, gentler, and more patient? Instead of getting caught up in the holiday rush, reach out and re-connect with a friend, acquaintance or relative that has drifted away. Why not even smile at the retail clerks. Their job must be grueling this time of year with longer hours of impatient customers. Or you can reflect on how you can enrich your relationships with quality time – truly sharing and caring – the whole year long.
This Holiday Season spend less time rushing, buying, and doing. Instead make an effort to be present and mindful of what is truly important. This Holiday Season give the gifts that money can’t buy – understanding, connection, love, and peace.
How did the Holidays roll around so fast this year?! I can’t believe I’m already sharing Christmas lists with my family, but then we have our big Holiday celebration on December 16th … Where did the time go?
With the days getting shorter as the Winter Solstice approaches, it’s time for reflection, assessment, wrapping up of the old year, and gestating ideas for the New Year. It’s best to take an hour or two to do this BEFORE the hustle and bustle of the Holidays. This is the best time to review what you’ve accomplished this year, and begin setting your goals and objectives for next year.
As crazy busy as the Holidays can get, taking time out to thoughtfully assess my successes, my incompletes, what I can let go of, and what I want to accomplish in the New Year helps me end the year with a sense of completion. It helps me stay grounded and focused during the whirlwind of activity and fun with family and friends at the holidays. Then when the New Year hits I can truly celebrate because I’ve already been gestating my goals and objectives. I know where I’m heading and what I need to do in the upcoming year.
I highly recommend this introspective practice of making plans for the New Year. The benefits you reap are much greater than the time it takes!
If you’re curious about the process, I’d love to share what was given to me by one of my mentors.
First, find some quiet time where you do nothing but reflect and think. For me, the best time is during meditation. You might prefer a leisurely walk along the beach or a hiking trail, or sitting quietly with a latte at a local coffee shop. Whatever works for you is great, but the idea is to set aside time to be alone with your thoughts.
Then let your mind float over what you have completed this year and fantasize about what you’d like to do next year. I’m reaching a point that if something feels too hard, or like too much work, I pass on it. Instead, let your mind float to those things you feel excited and enthusiastic about. You can tell what they are because you’ll start feeling energized and the juices will start flowing! I find that when I reach this stage I can’t wait until I can sit down at my computer, or with pen and paper, and start jotting down ideas!
This leads to the third step in the process: start putting those goals, projects and ideas on paper. Don’t worry about the order or time frame. At this point just do a ‘brain dump.’ Sometimes you might get it all down at once. Other times you might find that you’re updating, revising, expanding, and contracting your list over several days. It’s all good! You primary focus is to get down all the ideas and goals that feel exciting and energizing.
Once you have all your ideas down, then start organizing them into goals and the steps, or objectives, that need to be completed in order to achieve them. Oh! BTW they should be S.M.A.R.T. goals.
What? What’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal?
Specific – This means you should have a clear understanding of what it is that you will do and what the end product will look like. For example, last year my goal was to continue doing a weekly e-zine providing useful information to my following. A weekly e-zine is a specific goal, and the e-zine itself is the end product.
Measurable w/Measurement – This means you should have some idea as to whether you will meet the goal or not. For example, I’ve been about 90% successful in getting out a weekly ezine. Considering I’m human and have a busy schedule, I feel quite proud that I’ve been able to send out a weekly ezine almost every week during my second year of trying to execute this kind of an aggressive goal.
Achievable – This means that there is a high probability that you can be successful at achieving your goal. For example, since I’ve been 90% successful in getting out a weekly e-zine, then it was an achievable goal.
Relevant – This means that your goal should serve a purpose, or have an impact. For example, my purpose was to share useful information. Frequently I receive positive feedback from my readers which validates that my ezine has relevance.
Time-Oriented – This means, “When will you achieve this goal? What is the start and end date?” For example, the time-bound goal for my ezine was ‘weekly.’
Evaluating your goals to make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. will help you stay practical and reasonable about what you can accomplish so you don’t fall victim to overwhelm and burn out, get sick, or give up!
Once you’ve evaluated your goals, then start organizing them into 3, 6, 9, and 12 month goals. Now it’s time to begin identifying and scheduling weekly steps or objective. At this stage I tend to drill down the weekly objectives for just 3 months at a time. I always keep the larger perspective in mind, but I’ve found that ‘life happens while we’re busy making plans to do something else.’ Goals and objectives often need to be fine-tuned and re-evaluated as the year progresses. One year I had knee surgery, another year I fell in love (not a good excuse for being knocked off track, but I had fun!), and another year the recession hit. It’s important to keep some flexibility in your schedule so you can adapt and re-assess as needed.
Set a time to review your goals and objectives weekly. This will help you stay on track with the little objectives so you can hit your targeted big goals in a timely manner. Mondays are a great day to do this. It’s the first day of the week. A quick review of what’s on your schedule on Mondays will help you stay on track so you can have a productive week, and a prosperous year!
With everything else that you have on your schedule, I can hear many of you groaning about having one more thing to do! But I promise you, if you take time to do this, not only will you complete your year on a high, but you will ensure that you have a more successful, prosperous, and happier New Year.
If setting your goals and objectives for the New Year feels too overwhelming, then give me a call and schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to find out how I can help you get organized and on track for a prosperous 2018. Call Joy at 415-819-8769 or email me today!
In my last email I talked about the Devil card in the Tarot and how it kept showing up at a time when my whole life was going through a time of break down and transition.
The Devil card is the 15th Major Arcana card of the Tarot. It speaks to the shadow side of ourselves that is held in bondage to our addictions, greed, negativity, insecurities, self-doubts, jealousies, and fears (rejection, abandonment, not being good enough, not being loved, etc.). These shadow self-perceptions and beliefs keep us stuck in an old story that we tend to cycle in, even though we are desperate to escape.
Some are saying that we, as a collective, are going through a time of break down and transition. The Tower card may be apropos to what we are experiencing at this time.
The Tower is the 16th Major Arcana card. It is an image of disruption and change. Politically we are seeing this on a collective level. This disruption can also be experienced personally. It is generated by the battle inside you that is fighting the Devil, your own demons, to free yourself from that domination.
Vicki Noble likens this card to the great Hindu Goddess Kali Ma. She is a terribly ferocious looking goddess with a garland of skulls around her neck and a girdle of arms around her waist. She has four arms, is dark skinned, and splotches of blood stain her body. In one hand she carries a sword, another a pair of scissors, and in the third a bloodied head.
In the West, dark and black have been associated with fear, suffering, death and evil. Our fear of the dark Goddess is a projection of that fear. In the Hindu world view, however, the dark color is associated with the sacredness of the earth and its female nature. Kali’s symbolism, far from being foreboding, is filled with important imagery for those seeking greater awareness.
- Red – Kali often bears the color red because she is associated with the life force energy of our body, our blood, and to the fire of creativity.
- Garland of heads – The garland of severed heads or skulls represents the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. They symbolize the repository of knowledge and wisdom that is available to us.
- Sword – The sword is the sword of wisdom with which she cuts the chains of our shadow beliefs that keep us cycling in the old stories.
- Severed head – Symbolizes freeing ourselves from the negative degrading stories of our subconscious so we can embrace the universal consciousness of the Divine Mother and Father and our own divinity within.
- Waistband – The waistband of human arms symbolizes the necessity for performing good deeds, not out of co-dependency or wanting to feel self-important, but because caring for others and doing good deeds civilizes us, improves the condition of humanity, and opens our hearts to the flow of love.
Kali is that transformative energy of The Tower that can liberate us from the negative stories of our shadow selves.
When the Tower card is drawn it signifies that we have an opportunity to confront our beliefs that no longer serve us so we can change our stories. Even though it feels very disruptive, it tells us that we can still confront our shadow, that part of us that keeps us stuck in reactive and often unhelpful behaviors of jealousy, envy, greed, obsessiveness, anger, etc.
When we face these inner demons, learn the stories behind them, and are willing to release them because they no longer fit into the life we want to lead, then we can step into a higher vibration where joy, satisfaction, fulfillment and wellbeing resides.
On a collective level we are seeing this disruption play out with our governing bodies and in the media. This is forcing us to face the shadow aspects of ourselves and our country. It’s breaking down those areas where we might have been complacent or asleep, and is challenging us to re-evaluate our values, our truths, and what we stand for. It’s not an easy time. Nor is it meant to be. Yet it is a time of great opportunity, an initiation, to be a part of the movement to transform the world to one that will be a better place for all of us. Are you willing to be part of that challenge?
If you would like help to free yourself from your shadow beliefs and change your story, please schedule a 30-minute complementary consultation today with Joy Reichard (415-819-8769). Learn how you can live a more joy-filled life.