How many of you faced the early morning crowds on Black Friday like I did to get a good start on the Christmas shopping?

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.

Hoping for a picture-perfect White Christmas holiday is setting you up for not only disappointment, but potentially depression.

“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.

 

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