The holidays are a time of joy, bright lights, and celebrations. Family and friends gather for meals, shopping, religious observations and other meaningful traditions. Yet, for many, these same activities can be painful reminders of grief and loss or illicit feelings of what is often referred to as the holiday blues. Good news! There are things you can do to help you or your loved ones with the blues.
A simple internet search will show a multitude of articles and lists to help beat the holiday blues. Whether brief, short reminders or detailed and comprehensive articles, you can certainly find something that best fits your personality. However, there are some common themes I would like to highlight:
Managing Holiday Expectations
We can all have some high expectations of the perfect holiday gathering, buying the perfect gift(s), or making time to attend all the additional activities scheduled in the midst of an already busy schedule. Try letting go of expectations that make you feel anxious. Instead, look for the simple, unexpected joyful moments all around you. This might mean being open to creating some new time-honored traditions.
There is no gift quite like the gift of presence. Sometimes just being present with someone, listening to their memories, stories, and feelings can bring joy and strengthen relationship bonds in surprising ways. It does not matter if you have heard the stories a thousand times, you can still hear them from a fresh perspective. Our lives consist of stories and memories that make up a beautiful life narrative. When we hear each other’s stories, we become participants as their story becomes a part of our own. Lives intersect with one another in meaningful ways and are passed on to future generations through time-honored family and community traditions. I never knew my grandparents, but yet I know them very well through the stories, rituals and traditions I learned simply by being present at various, often unexpected, moments.
Be intentional including loved ones who may be experiencing feelings of isolation and loss. If you are experiencing those feelings yourself, be intentional in reaching out to family and friends. Talk about your feelings, or accept the opportunity to be included in activities.
Taking Action – Get Out and Do!
By getting out and doing things within one’s ability, you can still enjoy activities like driving/riding around and looking at the holiday lights, going to a religious service, or community gathering. Volunteering to do something for others is also a great way turn one’s focus outward and it can fill your heart with a sense of gratification, meaning and purpose.
Recognize When to Seek Professional Help
Sometimes the holiday blues are more than just blues. They can be symptoms of clinical depression. If you suspect you or a loved one may be experiencing some of the signs of clinical depression, contact your healthcare profession for proper diagnosis and treatment.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
(For a free booklet on clinical depression from the National Institute of Mental Health)
My hope for you is that you will enjoy this holiday season and find many sparks of light and joy in ordinary. However you choose to celebrate this season, may it be a wonderful one!
I would like to leave you with a blessing:
May God bless you and keep you this holiday season.
May you hold one another close in your hearts through any feelings of sadness, grief, or anxiety that can often come with the season.
May you and yours find a multitude of joys in the old and the new memories, stories, traditions, and shared holiday rituals you treasure.
May these treasures be passed on and shared for generations to come.
Chaplain Sherry Perry received her Master of Divinity from the Vanderbilt Divinity School, is Board Certified by two chaplain certifying bodies, and is a graduate of the Clinical Pastoral Education program. Chaplain Perry joined the team of Blakeford in 2015. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org