Dealing with the holiday blues

By Rachel Zamorano
The holidays can be a stressful time of year for people who suffer from depression, have recently experienced a loss, for those who have unresolved family conflicts, and even for those who typically function well. The holiday season is also the beginning of the winter weather, meaning less exposure to sunlight and less time spent enjoying the outdoors, which dampens many people’s moods.
In addition to the chilly weather, the holidays bring many, often unrealistic, expectations for others and us. There are mothers who want to make the “perfect” Christmas for their children and daughters-in-law who want to show their in-laws that they rival Martha Stewart’s talents. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and fail to enjoy the time with family or the true meaning of Christmas. The holiday season creates opportunities for us to form memories and traditions with those we love.
When losses such as death, miscarriage, infertility, illness, broken relationships, financial losses, changes in roles, and distance enter our lives, the holidays can be a painful reminder of what is missing or different. Individuals may experience intense feelings of loneliness, unhappiness, and isolation during the holiday season. Some may suffer symptoms that mirror a depressive Episode, such as changes in sleep patterns, irritability, withdrawal, feeling down most days, or lacking energy or focus to complete tasks.
Lessen the stress
Here are some things you can do to lessen stress during the holiday season.
• Give yourself permission to say no to requests for more of your time when your schedule is full that you don’t let other’s expectations keep you too busy to enjoy the season.
• Get ample sleep, maintain normal diet, and exercise routines as strictly as possible.
• Nurture your marital relationship at this time of year in order to ensure that you don’t end up fighting or not speaking to one another by New Years.
• Take time to discuss a holiday budget with your partner in order to ensure that you don’t overspend on gifts, travel, and entertaining.
• Discuss your schedule of events as a family and decide together which get-togethers you will attend and which you will forgo so that you also have time to relax.
• Decide as a family which traditions and activities are most important for you and which you can let go of this year. Some families create a December Daily journal or scrapbook or an Advent calendar or candle in order to keep the family centered on the meaning of the season and on enjoying time spent together.
The most important thing is to do what feels right for you, and to allow time to relax and enjoy the season. Also, remember this verse, according to Isaiah: “For I am the LORD, your God, who grasps your right hand; it is I who say to you, ’Fear not, I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)
If you or someone you know begin experiencing symptoms of depression, or holiday blues that persist, please call Community Counseling Services, a program of Catholic Charities, for an appointment, at 263-6941.
Zamorano is a licensed specialist clinical social worker at Catholic Charities, an agency of the Diocese of Wichita.