“Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!” How often do you hear these words this time of year? This is supposed to be a season of joy, happiness and fulfilment. However, our actual experiences often contradict these expectations. There are many reasons why you may feel down around the holidays. Here are the main reasons many people experience the holiday blues:
• Pressure to feel joyful: When homes and stores are adorned with holiday decorations, do you feel unexcited? You are not alone. The contrast between how you feel and what you believe you are supposed to feel can cause you to experience guilt and confusion.
• Loneliness: Holidays can be very lonely if you are alone, without a significant other or close family members or friends.
• Memories of past holidays: Whether you are aware of it or not, you have memories of past holidays. As such, your mood may be affected by experiences from holidays during which you felt sad. On the other hand, if your mood is currently unhappy, you may long for the happy holidays that once brought you joy and satisfaction.
• Memories of others: Holidays tend to be a time for reflection. You may remember family members and friends who have passed away or with whom you have lost contact. These memories often give rise to sad feelings, making it very difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy celebrations.
• Financial difficulties: One of the more satisfying experiences of the holiday season is giving to others. If your financial resources are limited, you are likely to feel inadequate and believe you are disappointing others.
Even though you may have one or more of these negative experiences, here are some ways to successfully survive the holiday season:
• Become comfortable with how you feel: If you do not feel as happy as you think you should, accept it. Trying to convince yourself or pretending to be cheerful will probably make you feel worse.
• Stay busy and avoid unstructured time: If the holidays are difficult for you, plan to engage in activities during which you have positive feelings. For example, fill your diary with fun events. Too much time spent alone may result in your dwelling on feelings such as sadness.
• Help another person: It is very difficult to feel sad if you are busy helping someone else. Become a volunteer at a soup kitchen or wrap gifts for children in need. Instead of feeling down, you are more likely to find yourself experiencing a sense of satisfaction.
• Establish your own traditions: Unlike what most people believe, there are no rules for how to spend your holidays. If old traditions make you feel badly, start new ones. If you do not have family nearby, spend the holidays with good friends. Instead of waiting for them to include you, invite them to your home instead. If cooking a Christmas dinner feels like too much of a burden, plan to dine out.