How to Make Your Holidays Happy –NOT BLUE


Diana J. Semmelhack

Joy to the World!  Home for the Holidays…Music is all around us triggering the joyous feeling we believe we should feel over that MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!!   Notoriously, the holidays are times for parties, getting together with friends, eating turkey, gift giving and many more activities which can stimulate joy and excitement.  On the other hand, for many of us, the holidays can trigger the Holiday Blues. The Holiday Blues for many people lead to temporary feelings of anxiety and depression triggered largely by activities related to the time of year.  There are some very simple reasons for these “blue” feelings to develop, including memories of holidays past, losses, deaths, break-ups, generally bad weather, too much partying and not enough rest—and the list goes on.  In fact, the lack of sunlight can adversely impact some people causing SAD or seasonal affective disorder.   It is important to know that the Holiday Blues are triggered by the holidays, but prolonged states of depression and anxiety can be signs of more serious mental illness that may need to be dealt with by mental health  professionals.
Additionally, Dr. Robert Hales, chair of the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral sciences, suggests that the Holiday Blues may impact more people this year versus past years because of increased concerns about war, terrorism and the economy emphasized in the news and elsewhere.  According to Dr. Hales, depression is one of the most common mental ailments.  If during the holiday period, you experience many of the following symptoms, you may have more than the Holiday Blues but a true depression, and in this case, it is important to seek professional help:
*feeling slow and restless
*lack of energy
*increase or decrease in appetite
*persistent thoughts of death or suicide
*feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
*sleeping more or less
*unaccounted for somatic symptoms
*tearfulness on a regular basis
So how can we lessen or avoid the Holiday Blues?  Be sure not to perceive the holidays as a time to cure all problems.  The holidays don’t fundamentally cure loneliness or sadness.  If you have a spiritual tradition:  Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukah–be mindful of the spiritual nature of the tradition and celebrate it.  Take time to rest and exercise.  Don’t over indulge in eating or drinking.  Create new traditions.  If you have limited family, create an auxiliary one merging friends to celebrate holiday cheer.  Don’t spend too much time alone.  Be sure to make plans and stay active.
Maud Purcell, LCSW, speaks about the importance of taking time to think of the blessing you have in your life right in the here and now. Taking stock of the positive can prevent the Grinch from stealing anything from us this holiday period. That “bah humbug” feeling can go away and we can remain grounded in holiday cheer. With a little bit of planning and intentionality, the holidays can be some of the most wonderful times of the year!

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