It's no secret that the holidays can bring on a fa-la-la-la-la-la funk; lots of people experience bouts of seasonal depression. Maybe it's the short days and long nights, the biting winds, the ice-encrusted windshields; or maybe it's the shopping, the relatives, and a constant barrage of social obligations. Maybe it's all those unrealistic television portrayals; those scenes of a perfect home with a perfect hearth filled with perfect friends and perfect family eating perfect food around a perfectly set table. Whatever the cause(s), while merry little Christmases are often the province of Hallmark movies, they may have very little to do with reality.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO AVOID THE CRASH AND BURN OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON?
First of all, lose the expectations. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is perfect. Before you place those “Martha Stewart” aims and objectives on yourself, take a deep breath and picture Martha in prison. NOTHING is perfect. You do not have to buy, wrap, cook, sing, play, or entertain flawlessly. Sometimes the turkey will be jerky (like mine was this Thanksgiving; upside, the dogs loved it); sometimes your children will act like spoiled brats and your extended family will behave like idiots. You may have family in the military, you may have suffered a loss, you may be between jobs, or you may just feel lost. It's okay. Really.
Another way to lessen the pressure is to make a holiday budget; keep to it, don't be tempted to splurge on unnecessary extravagances; January and your credit card bills will roll around with blinding speed. Shopping above and beyond your means will increase your stress level; you don't have to prove your love or your worth by wiping out your bank account.
Say “no.” Come on, practice. No. No, thank you. No, sorry I can't. No, no, no, no, NO! Don't run yourself ragged with excessive obligations that will have you hating everything about the season. Be smart about your time and make sure to plan for time to do nothing; you need that every season, but especially during this busy one.
Okay, when we get stressed, sometimes it's tempting to look for a little holly jolly cheer in a bottle. One glass of wine, perfect. An entire bottle, not so much. A Christmas cocktail, festive. Drinking so much the egg nog ends up on the bathroom floor; not a good idea. Alcohol is a depressant. A little goes a long way. The same holds true for gingerbread, Granny's fudge, shortbread, mashed potatoes, sugar cookies, hot cocoa and pumpkin spice lattes. Don't use the holidays to excuse constant over-indulgence. You will regret it sooner or later.
Along that vein; if you have an exercise routine, don't stop. Keep to your schedule. The endorphins you get from a brisk walk will go a long way to controlling your stress level and those holiday blahs.
One of the best ways to avoid the blues is to focus on something other than yourself. Look for an opportunity to volunteer; your church or community will provide all kinds of opportunities to do something altruistic that will make the “reason for the season” real.
And speaking of “real” – take some time before the whirlwind begins to think about what is really important to you. What matters to you the most, what brings you the most joy during the holidays? Focus on those things and let everything else take a back seat.
If you find yourself really struggling, ask for help. Sometimes those holiday blues can take on a more serious tone and you may need someone to guide or encourage you. Seek out a friend, talk to a doctor, make an appointment with a pastor or counselor. “Peace on earth” should be for everyone, including you.