Diane Sasser | 12/19/2008 2:27:52 AM
Yes, Virginia, they do exist – the holiday blues, that is. How can you feel blue with all the glitz of decorations, party invitations, cheerful TV ads and so on? LSU AgCenter family sciences professor Dr. Diane Sasser says feeling blue is common, but it doesn’t have to be.
Many people have the holiday blues for the same reasons others find the occasion so joyous: sensory overload and a desire for magazine-ad perfection. Others have the blues from a sense of loss – of family members, of finances or of days gone by.
How do you know if you have the blues? Sasser says the blues typically last only a short time. If they last every day for more than a couple of weeks, you may have serious depression.
Feelings of fatigue, sadness, tension, hopelessness or helplessness, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, irritability, headaches or other pains may be signs of the blues. If these feelings persist, however, you may need to seek professional help. Don’t ignore your mental health. You would see a doctor if you were physically ill; seek help for depression, too.
How do you cope with the blues? Sasser says, first, be realistic about the holidays. Those homes decorated in the magazines are done by dozens of professionals and their staffs months in advance. If you find a “real person” with a picture-perfect home, chances are there’s a closet or garage somewhere hiding the extraneous “stuff” and one exhausted homeowner.
Another way to overcome the holiday blues is to concentrate on the present and what you have rather than what you don’t have. Consider the significance of the holidays for you and your family rather than striving for the media image of the season. Come up with new holiday traditions – ones that don’t involve much money and that focus on family togetherness. For example, you might create new and inexpensive holiday decorations and gifts.
Honor those who are no longer with you by focusing on those who are around you. If you know someone without family during the holidays, invite them to be part of yours. If you feel alone, reach out and let someone know. Don’t suffer in silence.
Find activities to do together as a family, such as visiting displays, attending parades and viewing Christmas lights. Instead of focusing all your efforts on celebrating one big day when you struggle to get meals prepared, gifts wrapped, trees trimmed and such, spread more leisurely, less stressful activities over many days.
Volunteer to help others if possible. Taking the focus off your own concerns and putting it on others can make you feel better. This will go a long one in adding meaning to your holidays.
Delegate responsibility to other family members. Only do what you know you can do in a realistic amount of time.
Don’t make comparisons. This holiday may not be like holidays gone by. Things change, and you can make that change better. Don’t compare what your family does for the holidays with what others do. Behind the Jones’ Christmas cruise may be hiding a trip to save their marriage.
Your mental health can affect your physical health and vice versa. Eat healthy foods. Don’t skip breakfast. And don’t overindulge. Overeating can cause stress. Drinking alcohol can trigger depression. Get plenty of rest. Don’t try to make every holiday event that you are invited.
Talk to someone you trust or to a professional. You’d be surprised how many people are experiencing the same type of feelings!
Exercise is important, too. Going for a walk reduces stress and helps ward off weight gain. If you shop at a mall, park far away so you have farther to walk.
“Don’t try to tough it out,” Sasser said. “Take action to turn blues into holiday spirit.”