Overcoming Holiday Blues

Overcoming Holiday Blues

“The word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” - Carl Jung

‘Tis the season of happiness and joy, of giving and of receiving. It’s that time of year when the cold weather gives way to warm fires and frosty window panes. But, while many of us embrace the positive nature of the season, others of us also experience a downward sink into depressed or negative thinking. It’s not something chosen or predicted, but rather something that simply occurs due to circumstances, environment, or unknown forces at play, perhaps on a spiritual level. 

But, whatever the reason, the “holiday blues” affects millions of people at this time of year. Whether grieving the loss of a loved one, feeling the pinch of financial hardship, or experiencing a disconnect or dispossession from society, the expectations put on us during the holidays can often be overwhelming.

In this month’s blog, I present some ways to help overcome the “holiday blues,” focused more on creative types, but intended for anyone. However, this is not written with persons experiencing severe depression, anxiety, or similar challenges. Anyone with more severe challenges should consider seeking professional assistance from a doctor, therapist, religious supporter, or even close friend or family member.

For me, the first time I experienced the “holiday blues” was when we had our first child. It was December 2000 and we were both exhausted as Christmas was just two weeks after the birth day. Money was tight, we were inundated with visitors and phone calls, and work was demanding all of my attention. I remember driving home one night and pulling over. I tilted the seat back and began cry, the world seeming to close in around me. The feeling lasted throughout the holidays, though it wasn’t bad enough to keep me from being part of the holidays, spending time with loved ones, or fully enjoying my child’s first Christmas. It was more like moving through life with a heaviness on my spirit. After a few weeks, it lifted and life went back to normal. I won’t forget it, though.

I understand how the holiday season can affect my mood, my finances, my relationships, energy, and even my diet. How the different aspects of the holiday should be embraced, while others should maybe be addressed differently or even avoided. Below is a list of potential challenges we all may face at this time of year, and some possible insight as to how to make those “holiday blues” a little brighter and easier to manage and overcome.

1. Money

It’s so easy to spend money during the holidays and peeking at the bank account after a lofty trip to the mall, there’s no wonder why many people fall quickly get the financial blues. But, there are ways to curb spending, spend a lot less, and even spend nothing at all:

  • Don’t be tempted into buying gifts for yourself.
  • Regift lightly used items, like books, board games, music, or art supplies
  • Make gifts, cards, holiday decorations, or mementos
  • Cook or bake something
  • Donate a gift of money on behalf of someone else
  • Give the gift of yourself and spend quality time with others

2. Down time

Down time is usually something most of us wish we had more of, but around the holidays when school is out, work is slow, or it’s vacation break, we can often find we have an abundance of down time. That’s when we get bored, lazy, unproductive, and even agitated. 

Taking advantage of that down time to do things we put off during the rest of the year is a great way to combat the holiday blues. During the warmer months, we spend most of our time outside, but in these colder months, that down time can be spend cleaning out attic space, the garage, closets, boxes of photos, music, or even an old file cabinet.

Making room for the new by clearing out the old is always uplifting!

3. Over-commitment

Whether committing to holiday gatherings, baking or cooking food for others, creating artwork as gifts, and even shopping can be really overwhelming. To help reduce holiday stress, the word “no” comes in exceptionally handy. By setting boundaries and limitations on how much you can commit to is a great way to free up time for yourself to do things that make you happy or comfortable. If you’re invited to four parties in a month, perhaps say “no, thank you,” to two of them; instead of committing to cooking large meals for the family, have the family help cook the large meal. 

4. Holiday Spirit 

Going out into the world, seeing the lights and decorations can be truly wonderful. However, it’s also easy to feel rushed into the season by over-enthusiastic retailers, television advertising, and aggressive shoppers that can transform anyone into a Scrooge.

For me, I like to head out into the world on the weekdays, typically after commuter hours to avoid the mayhem of traffic and hostile drivers. Going to the mall at 7pm is a good way to avoid the crowds and really enjoy the shopping experience at a leisurely pace, allowing the holiday spirit to wash over us instead of knocking us down like a tidal wave.

5. Holiday Music 

Holiday music is the best way to liven up the season. But when you hear the same few songs over and over, instead of livening up the season, it can be completely annoying. This happened to me recently when I heard the famous Bing Crosby song, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” in a tv commercial, on the radio, in two different stores, and at work - to the point where I actually thought, “oh, no… not again!”

I love holiday music, and one way I’ve found to keep it fresh and uplifting is to invest in new holiday music as part of my own tradition. Over the past few years, I’ve found inexpensive music featuring Reggae, heavy metal, and even Star Wars which was wonderful for my whole family.

Finding new, hidden gems of music can be fun and a way to distract from any stress brought on by the season.

6. Food & Diet

Sure, I try to eat healthy during the holidays, but with the cold weather and all the food available at this time of year, it can be hard not to put on a few extra pounds and skip the trip to the gym on a regular basis. Some good ideas about food and diet during the holidays are:

Be selective with what you eat 

  • Eat in moderation, keeping to smaller portions spread far apart.
  • Be selective with food choices, opting for healthy choices when possible.
  • With sweets, take half of that cake, pie, or brownie instead of a whole one.
  • For me, staying away from snacks is big. I like to “take a snack, but don’t come back” for more.

7. Holiday Self-Promotion  

Self-promotion is hard enough during the regular year, so when every crafter or artist comes out of the woodwork to sell their wares online, at crafting fairs, or at holiday events, it’s easy to feel lost in the crowd and invisible to the world. The best way to promote yourself during the holidays is to keep it simple, yet consistent. Be sure your product or service is something that people want. If you set up a table at a Holiday Craft Fair selling ashtrays, it’s likely people will pass by in favor of the table selling hand-made scarves. 

I find being consistent with the season and creating a product or service people desire will glean more attention from people buying. Another thing I find helpful is to give away a few products in exchange for a photo of the person receiving it, specifically to use on social media to promote your product or service and spread the “word of mouth” about your table at the event.

8. The Holiday Blues

Many of the things here can lead to anxiety, stress, and depression. The holiday blues can happen to anyone when expectations aren’t met, obligations seem overwhelming, finances are thrown out of whack, we’re reminded of the loss of a loved one, or even just the state of the world seems to much to be celebrating.

I find recognizing things I am grateful for, keeping a list of things I wish to accomplish, and ways I can sort out things that keep my life exciting versus things that cause me stress that I can let go of.

For example, just looking at holiday cards. A lot of people stress out about holiday cards. I know I used to. But then, I found that instead of trying to create something at the last minute, what if I started on holiday cards right at Thanksgiving (in the US)? I began doing this a few years ago and I’ve been pretty successful in keeping up. 

I also like to arrange my holiday plans ahead of time so I know where I’m going to be and when, so there’s no surprises for anyone. And with gifts, I found that creating personal gift boxes has been a great way to keep things in check for the one’s I’m shopping for, keep my budget under control, and have fun being creative. My criteria for boxes is to include:

  • Something to wear
  • Something to read
  • Something to eat
  • Something to play with 
  • Something practical or useful

9. New Year’s Gloom 

So, the year is coming to a close. Taxes, money, work, school and the state fo the world may begin to look foreboding and weigh heavy. Many people choose to make a “New Year’s Resolution,” or a promise to change or become better about something in the year ahead. Personally, I avoid resolutions because I don’t want to commit to something and risk failing and feeling bad about it.

Instead, I prefer to look at my life up to this point and note the successes I’ve had, whether with work, family, friends, or personal. I recognize the places where I could’ve done things different or better, and try to let go of them, instead of hold onto them.

Looking hopefully toward the coming year at the opportunities, friendships, and possibilities - instead of looking at potential limitations - is a good way to start the new year off with a fresh foot forward.

10. Expectations

Everyone sets expectations on themselves. It’s our nature. But when we do not meet or live up to those expectations, they can become difficult stumbling blocks in the road to our success.

I also find that setting goals can sometimes lead to disappointment if I don’t meet them, as well. So, instead of setting goals, I try to set deadlines for myself. Dates on my calendar which I try to work toward, with no firm consequence if I don’t meet them, only the opportunity to reset the deadline and try again until I meet it.

Also, trying to set deadlines one at a time instead of many at once can help keep things in perspective. Asking for help can also be a good way to bring others into the mix by offering to help them in exchange for assistance. And remembering that we all have limitations of time, energy, money, and interest that can be easily exhausted if not careful. 

So, going into the holiday season with realistic expectations, not only of ourselves, but of others, with a sense of reasonable commitment, a good understanding of time and spending time, as well as money and spending money can be an ideal way to keep the festive spirit healthy and alive throughout the season.

For everyone reading, I wish you the happiest and safest holiday wishes and that the new year ahead brings success, peace, and joy for you and the one’s you hold most dear.

Thank you for reading and for your support.