The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is often filled with glad tidings of great cheer. For some, however, these last few weeks of the year are anything but merry. Experiencing that hopeless holiday feeling for any reason may even be the reality for you or someone you know.
Here, we will look at some factors that might cause you to feel sad. We also will offer suggestions to help you manage the season when some may otherwise find it difficult to celebrate.
With the increased amount of expectations and obligations, it is common for many people to feel overwhelmed during the holidays. Those feelings often lead to stress and depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is a mood affliction that can affect how a person feels, acts, thinks, or reacts. This time of year seems to activate or compound stressors, including:
- Dealing with family issues. Perhaps your relationship with some or all of your immediate or extended family is precarious. Maybe someone in your inner circle is best handled in small doses. These connections can be complicated, leading to situations in which you feel uneasy.
- Striving for perfection. Between decorating for the holiday, sending (and sometimes even creating your own) seasonal cards, finding the ideal gift for everyone on your list, cooking and cleaning to host a gathering of family and/or friends, and finding time to accept invitations, a person can quickly become worn down.
- Feeling empty or guilty. If you recently lost a loved one or close friend, the season may seem less joyous because of that void. You may also have feelings of guilt for celebrating in their absence.
- Not getting enough sleep. All your planning, shopping, wrapping, and hosting likely leaves little time for your normal routine. Your days might be stretched to accomplish all of your to-dos, and one of the things being sacrificed is probably a good night’s sleep.
These experiences are normal, and everyone has his or her own way of dealing with hardships and pressure. When you feel the weight of tension and time constraints building up, the best thing to do is take a break. Breathe. Set things aside or walk away for a while and take some time for yourself.
Other things to help curb stress include:
- Avoid conflict. Surround yourself with others to deter an ambush confrontation. If you suspect an issue might arise, practice responses that will redirect the topic, like suggesting another time for the discussion.
- Have realistic expectations. Try to remember that the focus of the holidays is togetherness. Be okay with saying no to events or outings if you feel participation will only cause more worry. Gift-giving comes from the heart, so you need not go overboard to show someone you care.
- Talk about your feelings. If you are mourning a loss or missing someone close, reach out to family, friends, or a therapist. Discuss your mood, whether you feel angry at the person for leaving, guilty for enjoying the holiday without him or her, or sad because he or she is gone. Talking helps with healing. Even if you are unsure how you are feeling, voice that to a trusted ear.
- Make sleep a priority. Inspirational speaker and author Eleanor Brownn said, “You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” This sage advice means you need to focus on self-care so that you may care for others. Sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy and happy mind. Studies show that sleep loss and depression are often linked, so be sure that shut-eye is at the top of your list of holiday concerns.
Something else you can try to avert seasonal anxiety is to plan ahead. Accept that the few weeks around the holidays will be hectic and come up with ways to center yourself. Read a book or take a nap. Go for a walk in the sunshine and improve your mood with physical activity and balanced serotonin levels. Make your heart and others happy by volunteering to help those less fortunate.
If you have or are currently experiencing a hopeless holiday feeling, Laurie Grengs Counseling is here to help. We offer many services specific to your emotional needs, and we can assist in determining the best path for support. Contact us today.