By Katherine Lee, LCSW
Around this time, reminders of the holiday season are all around us. We’re bombarded with Christmas commercials, holiday music, and decorations seem to be everywhere (including the workplace). For many, this is a joyous time, but the holidays can also elicit feelings of stress, anxiety, and sadness. To quell these emotions, we may find ourselves drinking too much, overeating, or overspending. Below are 5 essential tips for managing the “Holiday Blues,” and decreasing the chance you’ll give into these behaviors.
1. Maintain a schedule, and set limits spent on time with extended family
While many of us enjoy celebrating traditional holiday experiences with family, too much time spent together can lead to uncomfortable emotions and potential conflict. As independent adults, going back into family dynamics can trigger old, unresolved feelings and issues. Setting parameters for how many days you’re willing to spend with extended family before going back to your own schedule can help you to feel more in control.
2. Contribute in your community
One of the best ways to boost mood is to help others in your community. Volunteering in a food drive, a soup kitchen, or other activity can help to feel less alone, and less depressed. Not only that, the holiday season is one of the best times to help others, since there are so many volunteer opportunities available.
3. Maintain or increase exercise regimen
Not only can exercise help burn the extra calories we tend to consume during this time—exercise is another ideal way to naturally stabilize mood and help us feel better. It releases feel-good brain chemicals, which helps to ease depression. Better yet—mix up your exercise routine and get out of the gym. Running/jogging or taking walks outdoors will allow you to get more natural sunlight—another way to help stave off feelings of depression.
4. Be compassionate with yourself
As much as we’d like to get rid of stubborn emotions over the holidays, it’s inevitable that they’re going to come up. This is a time that triggers memories (some pleasant and perhaps some not so pleasant), reminds us of loved ones we’ve lost, or those we wish we had around us. No wonder the holidays don’t always feel so great. Allowing and accepting these feelings to occur may help to resist urges to engage in activities to try to get rid of them, i.e. binge drinking/eating.
5. Forgive yourself for mistakes
With all of the temptation around us, coupled with stress or sadness, we’re twice as likely to make mistakes with overeating, drinking or spending. These behaviors have a tendency of making us feel guilty, or more depressed the next day, thereby increasing the desire to re-engage in hopes of gaining temporary relief. This becomes a vicious cycle that we’re more prone to than ever during this time. Forgiving yourself for slipping up can help you to make different choices and to take better care of yourself.