The holiday season is supposed to be the most joyous time of the year, and most Americans do feel positive emotions during the holidays. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, “the holiday season often brings unwelcome guests – stress and depression.”
Holiday cheer can amplify loneliness and hopelessness in people who have high expectations for the season. It can also be especially tough for people who have lost loved ones. Furthermore, being bombarded by the media with images of good looking people, smiling families and friends, sitting around the family hearth in perfect surroundings, can make us question the quality of our own relationships and quality of life. Some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which commonly occurs in winter, and may feel out of sync with the holiday cheer as well.
Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression, particularly during the holiday season, and lonely people isolate during the holidays, thus exacerbating the feelings of loneliness.
The American Psychiatric Association Holiday Stress Report found that women are most vulnerable to holiday stress. This may be so because women often are the ones who take charge of the holiday celebrations and especially with such tasks as preparing meals, decorating homes and shopping.
While the barrage of holiday advertising can make us forget what the holiday season is really about, here are some of the things we can do to cope with the stress and sadness one may feel during this time of year.
- Acknowledge your feelings – it’s OK to feel sadness and there is no need to feel shame over it.
- Reach out – often lonely or sad people tend to isolate which only exacerbates those feelings of isolation. Find places you can do some volunteer work, like a soup kitchen, to break your loneliness and help with a sense of purpose.
- Be Realistic – Don’t expect perfection, it only exists in Hollywood fantasy. Don’t try to make this the perfect holiday season.
- Set aside differences – accepting differences makes it easier to live with loved ones and reduces the stress of family gatherings.
- Stick to a Budget – Don’t let pressure from even your loved ones set you on a course of over-spending.
- Take a breather – Do something for yourself.
- Seek professional help if you need it.