I believe most of us are aware of the “holiday blues” and how stress can aggravate depression during this time of the year. All the things that many of us look forward to and enjoy, such as parties, celebrations and spending time with family and friends, can be sources of tension for others. Some may feel isolated or lonely, even in large gatherings. Or their expectations of a joyous season may not rise to the level they anticipated. Others, of course, may have work or other obligations that cause them to feel like they’re missing out while everyone else they know gets to celebrate.
Let’s face it: there’s a lot more going on this time of the year, and some of us deal with it better than others. There are people who enjoy shopping (especially those you see lined up in the early morning hours on Black Friday, as shown on every town’s local news). Other people dread it, which may be why the rise of online gift-buying has exploded in recent years.
There are obligations this time of year – to family, to work, maybe even to community or school events. While organizers of these events do everything in their power to make them enjoyable, that sense of obligation, of having to do something, can rub people the wrong way and prevent them from enjoying themselves no matter what.
Even if you don’t feel depressed, there could be signs that the extra tension is getting to you. For example, you could be getting headaches more frequently or have trouble sleeping. And while it’s not unusual for people to eat or drink more than usual (after all, it’s not easy to pass up those delicious cookies everyone is bringing to the office), excessive drinking or over-eating could also be subliminal ways to self-medicate and deal with stress.
As I’ve found with so many things in life, it’s the pressure we put on ourselves that can be eased the quickest. Stepping back and putting things in perspective can make all the difference. For example, don’t worry about getting someone the “perfect” gift. Listen for hints, but otherwise the people you love will appreciate whatever you get them. Ralphie already got his Red Ryder BB gun; chances are your loved one has already received the equivalent, too.
So be realistic in setting expectations for yourself and others. In the middle of a holiday gathering, take a moment to just look around and appreciate the moment and with whom you are sharing it. If you find that you’re spending time with people you don’t want to be around, do something about it by instead spending time with those you find caring and supporting.
Even if you love the holidays and are having the time of your life, chances are you know someone who’s struggling. You can make a difference in their life by reaching out and showing you care. A visit or phone call can be a real difference-maker in someone’s life and truly make their holiday special, too.
I know none of this is groundbreaking, but I hope it contains some good reminders that helps you better enjoy the Holiday Season. My final piece of advice is to make sure you make time for you. That might be the best present you get all year.