The holidays are a joyous time when we come together to give back to our community, take stock of all that we’re thankful for, come up with goals and dreams for the new year, and spend time with loved ones. There are many beautiful things about the holidays, but there can also be a darker side.
This year, that darker side may seem even more ominous because of this feeling of deja vu as we navigate yet another resurgence of COVID-19 in the form of the Omicron variant. Keep this in mind as we learn more about the holiday blues in this article, as this uncertainty will add another element of fear and stress.
The Holiday Blues are often confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but they’re not quite the same. Holiday Blues, like SAD, can be a period during the winter when you feel increased anxiety, stress, loneliness, or a general darkening of your mood. Unlike SAD, the cause is more related to the pressure of holidays rather than the dreary weather — although, that doesn’t help. Holidays can be very triggering based on past trauma or because we feel we’re not “living up” to its representation in mainstream media.
Anyone can experience the holiday blues. It can be challenging to talk about the holiday blues if you’re experiencing them. There’s the expectation that this is a joyous time of year. However, this time of year can also be a period of loneliness, anxiety, painful reflection, grief, and potential depression.
You can both enjoy the holidays and experience the holiday blues simultaneously.
If you think you may be experiencing the holiday blues or know someone who is, look for these signs:
- changes in appetite
- disrupted sleep patterns
- ongoing feelings of worry or dread
- tiredness or lethargy
- irritability or mood swings
- problems concentrating or motivating yourself
- low self-worth or guilt
Loneliness is our next big epidemic. Scrolling your social media feeds doesn’t help. You need a genuine connection with loved ones. The Omicron variant is making these in-person connections a little more challenging, but they are not impossible. It’s still possible to have quality connections with loved ones while remaining safe. Opt for a video chat rather than simply scrolling through your social feeds or head outside for a brisk December stroll with a friend.
Pick five days in December to make plans with friends in person. Reach out to specific people and get these dates on your calendar. You could also use social media to your advantage for good and post about some of the activities you want to do this December to see who else is interested in some in-person connection.
It can be challenging to let go of the holiday nostalgia of our past. For many, holiday traditions can carry both nostalgic memories as well as possible resentment related to change. Instead of grieving the customs of your past, try creating new traditions. Start your morning with gratitude journaling and write about the traditions you’re letting go of. Research shows that the practice of gratitude can help us be happier and more resilient.
The pressure to indulge with coworkers, look good at parties, buy gifts for everyone, or keep up traditions for others can be overwhelming. It’s important to remember that the holidays are not about presents, food, alcohol, or expectation.
This time of year is simply about sharing love and time with those you care about and your community. Giving back to those in need can be a wonderful antidote to the holiday blues. Is there a toy drive in your neighbourhood or a food drive happening at the office? If not, why not plan one?
Overindulging is hard to avoid during the holidays, especially when it comes to food and alcohol. In addition, many of us are also overindulging in social media, scrolling through feeds and comparing our holidays to others.
To avoid overindulging, be sure to have a routine during the holidays. This routine will help you to limit your mindless overindulging and develop healthy habits. Make sure that walks in the outdoors are a part of your routine. It may be hard to motivate yourself to get outside on darker and rainier days, but research has shown that a walk in the outdoors reduces the cortisol and adrenaline levels in your body so you can focus on the positives in your life.
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