Holidays are often depicted as a time of joy and togetherness, time to celebrate with our friends and family.  However, as the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation depicts, this is not always the case.  Holidays can also bring a tremendous amount of stress.  Family conflict, financial concerns, and difficult emotions are often brought to the surface during the winter months, overshadowing the shining lights and Christmas cheer.

In addition to factors such as finances and family dynamics playing a role in generating some feelings of sadness and anxiety, holidays can be triggers of memories that can also be linked to difficult emotions.  When we have experienced loss, such as a death, divorce,  relocation, seeing commercials on television, decorating the house, or even certain smells associated with the holiday season, can bring up memories that leave us with a sense of despair or loneliness.  So, what can we do about this to make the holiday season more palatable?  Maybe even helping us get a bit into the “holiday spirit.”

  1. Remember your basic needs:  get enough sleep and maintain a balanced diet in order to keep your physical self in a place of strength.
  2. Get those endorphins going.  Regular exercise can help create those “happy chemicals” in your brain to help combat depressive states.
  3. Listen to music that brings you a sense of relaxation or well-being.
  4. Stay organized:  sticking to routines and making to-do lists can help decrease anxiety by making us feel more together.  Organization can also help us prioritize and feel like we are accomplishing goals.
  5. Reach out to a support system, avoid isolating.  When we are alone for long periods of time, we can start to isolate and feel lonely.  Being around supportive, positive people can be uplifting.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor—they are here to help!
  6. Remember that this too will pass.  Emotional states are temporary even when at times it does not feel this way.

If you identified with this article, know that you are not alone.  Most people can relate to at least one year in which the holiday cheer was missing from their seasonal experience.  This too will pass!  Stay hopeful and reach out when you need support.

Written By:  Meagan Foxx, LPC, LISAC