Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Blues

Q. I read your article last week about grief and the holidays. I haven't experienced grief, but the holidays are very difficult for me. What can I do battle the holiday blues?

A. For some individuals, the holidays are a time of loneliness, depression, stress, grief and other emotions that produce feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. They long for the holiday season to be over and never return.

It is important to understand that the bad feelings are not the real problem. They are the result of issues in life, whether caused by medical needs, relationship issues or other circumstances. A solution may become obvious once the real issue is identified and resolved. To effectively resolve these, you need to first understand what is happening in your life.

The factors that lead to these emotions are almost limitless. These could be issues that have happened in the past or are currently happening; they may be within or outside your control; they may be real or imagined; and they may be tied to thoughts, beliefs or attitudes. Also, be aware of underlying medical issues such as biochemical imbalances, effects of alcohol or other drugs, side effects of prescribed medications, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, in which a person’s feelings are tied to the change in seasons.

Along with identifying issues in your life, become aware of specific circumstances that can trigger these negative feelings. This will help you avoid those factors and instead focus on those things that help you have a positive mindset.

Some factors that may trigger negative emotions or feelings for you are stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, finances and the inability to be with friends and family. Time constraints and demands such as shopping, family reunions, parties and guests can add to the feelings of tension, as can post-holiday disappointments such as bills and the departure of guests. Some outward expressions of these negative feelings are headaches, difficulty sleeping, overeating and excessive drinking.

Most importantly, remember that God loves you and wants to be an active, daily part of your experience. Make worship a priority. A prayer like the one found in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer,” could help drive away the “holiday blues.”

Tips for coping with the Holiday Blues:
  • Keep expectations for the holidays manageable.
  • Leave the past, live the present and expect the future.
  • Do things for others.
  • Enjoy inexpensive or free activities.
  • Be aware that drinking alcoholic beverages can increase feelings of depression.
  • Spend time with caring and supportive individuals and groups.
  • Take some personal alone time to recharge your batteries.
  • Try celebrating the holidays differently and create a new tradition.
  • Set reasonable limits regarding the purchase of gifts.
  • Make a list and prioritize important activities.
  • Let others share the responsibility of holiday tasks.
  • Contact a professional, Christian counselor to help you resolve issues in your life that may be triggering the blues.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor. This article was written by Dwight Wilson, counselor in Hartselle, Sheffield, and Athens.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.