Chasing Away the Holiday Blues
"The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out
- Jim Rohn
Once again we find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season. Holidays are meant to bring joy and celebration but sometimes bring sadness and despair. Holidays can be difficult times, and this may be especially true this year because of our ongoing national crisis.
Changes in life, such as being separated from family and friends or living through the grief of a loss, can be hard. While this is true of any holiday, it is most true of the Thanksgiving to Christmas season. Having a difficult holiday experience is so common that it is often described as having the "Holiday Blues."
The Holiday Blues are primarily caused by expectation and comparison along with a lack of planning and action.
We have high expectations for the holidays. We often hope that they will make up for a year gone wrong. We expect family members to all be friendly, season's greetings to be sent, and gifts to be given. Happiness is supposed to reign. The mass media through news stories, television specials, and advertising raise the hope for "what may be." The reality of "what is" often falls short of the expectation, and there is disappointment. The moment is robbed of its joy.
Furthermore, whatever the holiday does bring is often compared to what used to be and is found lacking. A childhood memory of a special day is hard to recapture. Whenever we engage in comparison, we risk losing the joy of what actually is present at the moment. Comparison only creates frustration and more disappointment.
What can be done? The answer is that in order to have a good holiday, don't create unrealistic expectations and don't get caught up in comparison.
If you find yourself in new circumstances and know that the holidays may be hard, then take responsibility for yourself. Don't wait to see what happens. Make something happen. Create the holiday you want by making realistic plans. Get involved and take action.
- If you are in a new community, be sure you get invited somewhere. Let others know what you need. Make yourself available. Or, invite someone to join you in the holiday celebration.
- Find out what the community offers and participate in it. Go to the concerts and parades. Get involved. Volunteer some of your time to people who are in need and bring joy to them. Help serve a holiday meal at a shelter for the homeless. Take gifts to the children's home, or visit a nursing home.
- If dealing with grief over the death of significant people in your life, plan a ritual of remembrance for them. Bring them into the celebration and don't try to avoid the reality of the loss. Intentionally remembering people no longer present will be helpful. Tell fun stories about them and say a prayer for them at a meal. Light a candle and set out favorite photographs of your times together. Celebrate the joyous times that were shared.
Holidays bring nostalgia and have up and down times. This is normal. Don't look for fulfillment of all of your desires. Don't get caught up in unrealistic expectation and comparison. Accept and enjoy the present moment.
With planning and action you can create a good holiday experience for yourself.
Dan Johnston, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and author of "Lessons for Living: Simple Solutions for Life's Problems," a self-help book of common sense ways to make life go better. He is also the creator of the Awakenings Web Site (http://www.lessons4living.com) which offers tools for psychological and spiritual growth. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org