“There’s no place like home for the holidays….” “On this joyful Christmas Day…” “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Maybe not for everyone. Why is it that when every commercial, Christmas song, and holiday card tells us that this is the most joyous time of the year, do many people feel sad?
- Unrealistic expectations
It’s not hard to see how unrealistic expectations can develop when everything we see around us, every Facebook post, and every Christmas card and letter we receive, tells us that everyone is enjoying the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER! Even if life is going fairly well, our experiences may suffer in comparison. Having the belief that everything needs to be perfect and everyone needs to be happy will inevitably lead to disappointment and frustration, which actually raises stress levels and will make you irritable and unhappy.
Tips – Try not to compare your holiday experience to others and be mindful of YOUR blessings. Try to “go with the flow” if everything doesn’t go perfectly. Dinner may be slightly burned, guests may argue, kids may make a mess, but try to focus on the big picture and not get distracted by the things that don’t go exactly as planned. Christmas doesn’t have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting to be wonderful. The more realistic your expectations, the more you’ll experience a feeling of well-being.
- Lack of meaning
It seems that the progression from religious meaning to a more secular view of Christmas may contribute to more emptiness around the holiday. But even if you aren’t particularly religious, remembering the other important aspects of why you celebrate can add depth and meaning.
Tips – Focusing on relationships, family, love, connectedness, and simple moments of grace throughout the season can give meaning to the holidays. Give to a charity or volunteer to help others can also help us to feel like our actions matter when so many other things we do at this time of year just add stress and can sometimes seem frivolous. You can do something to honor a family member, verbalize to others the blessings that you have had all year or good things that have happened, or invite someone who would have been alone for the holiday to spend the day with you.
- TOO MUCH STRESS
Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can be the most stressful. Too much to do, too little time, too much money spent, and too much pressure. All that stress can definitely have a negative effect on one’s mood.
Tips – Limit your to-do list for you and your family. Do you really have to send out 100 Christmas cards to people you haven’t seen in ten years? Is one tree enough or do you have to have put up and decorate three? What do you really need to be happy and satisfied? Are there activities or events that are special to you and your family that will give a sense of the holiday without adding stress? Can you minimalize without giving up the best aspects of celebrating? What are your needs and the needs of others that you have to meet, but what can you possibly eliminate? Can you realistically budget your spending so that when the bills arrive in January, you aren’t going to regret what you’ve done?
If your sadness seems to be more than Christmas blues and your symptoms are severe or continue for more than a few weeks, seek professional help. Symptoms of depression include persistent feelings of sadness, sleep disturbance, episodes of crying, loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, self-blame or guilt, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, fatigue, loss of appetite or overeating, and isolation. If you have thoughts of suicide, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.