Susan L Crum, Ph.D. 


Behavioral Medicine,


Avoiding The Holiday Blues

Posted by cfln4646 on December 12, 2013 at 7:30 PM

For Christians with a strong faith and for those with close supportive family ties, Christmas can be a meaningful time of the year. It can represent God’s effort to reach out to us and the bonds of love that bind us not only to Him but also to family and friends. But, others find Christmas a stressful time of the year.

This is true for those who are homeless. Those who don’t have family or who have been rejected by their families due to addiction, mental illness or criminal behavior. For some people Christmas represents a time of embarrassment when their financial struggles are highlighted when they cannot afford to buy gifts for those who are important to them. It can be a time of regret, a time when people feel estranged from God. For some worrying about preparations, finances, shopping, and family relationships during this time can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety, as well as stress, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

So, it is important to look after your mental health during the holidays. Here are some suggestions to help you get through the holidays with less stress”

Money: Don’t over extend yourself. If you can’t afford to buy gifts, try making something or giving a coupons for something special. For instance, you might give you teenager a coupon to drive them to the movies with a friend one weekend, or dad a coupon to help him clean out the garage. If you prefer to buy gifts, set personal boundaries on how much you will spend.

Relationships: If you have a problem with someone you will be seeing at Christmas send them a note and offer to meet to resolve the issue before the holiday. If that doesn’t work, you might choose not to invite them to your home or pick a day and time to visits others when you know that individual wouldn’t be present. To avoid overloading yourself, set personal boundaries on the number of social events you will attend.

If you are alone, consider becoming a volunteer. Helping others through the holidays can often dispel the feeling of loneliness and help you recognize the blessings in your own life. Put up a small tree in your room and each time you walk by it write down something you are thankful for then hang that on your tree. It may be a good childhood, having food for dinner that day, having a job to go to, having a friend, good health, your pet, a trip you really enjoyed. Being grateful for what you have and focusing on that rather than upon what you don’t have, will help combat feelings of depression. Try to take positive action – perhaps go Caroling with a local church, or head to the Humane Society to pet some cats, or make a few cards to drop off at a nursing home. View this time of year as an opportunity to engage in acts of loving kindness, and generosity. When, you see the guy with the sign asking for a dollar, give him two. You never know how much you may lift your own spirit in doing so.

Moderation: Overindulgence can lead to accidents and holiday visits to the ER. So indulge in a treat, but try to focus on fruits and vegetables so you maintain your health. If you enjoy a glass of wine, please do. But, be careful not to drink to numb pain or reduce anxiety. Drinking excessively is detrimental to your body, can contribute to sleeping problems, and can lead to fatigue and irritability.

Exercise is a boon. It promotes both physical and mental health. So, try to park your car as far from the mall and you can and walk the extra distance. Participate in an after dinner dance contest and you’ll not only feel more energized but also boost your mood.

Relax: Remember that a holiday is a day of festivity when no work is done. So, try to cook ahead of time, order in, or go out for dinner. Skip the China and indulge in paper plates. Avoid the urge to answer emails or to ‘get caught up’ on work or homework. Instead, give yourself permission to relax.

According to the National Institute of Health Christmas is a time when American’s experience a high incidence of depression and both hospitals and police report high rates of suicide attempts and suicidal deaths. Part of this may be attributed to the fact that the decrease in light during winter increases the indicidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Part of the problem is that we set unrealistic expectations expecting a flawless holiday and then becoming depressed when are expectations are not met. Some people find Christmas hard because they are uncomfortable with social gatherings, others feel lonely or are saddened by the loss of employment or ongoing financial struggles. Regardless of the cause, depression can be serious and if the suggestions above don’t help, seek out professional help.

Most regions have psychologists locally who can assist you. But, if you don’t , go online and seek some help. One good resource for this is:

Meanwhile, post yourself a daily stress prevent checklist:

I exercised for at least 1t minutes today.

I ate well without overindulgence and with dieting.

I showed compassion for myself and others

I took 15 minutes by myself just to relax, listen to music, breath slowly or soak in the tub

I laughed, watched a comedy, read some jokes, or hung out with upbeat people.

I did the most important things first today and didn’t sweat the rest.

Presented as a Community Service

By Susan L. Crum,Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist


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