How To Handle The Holiday Blues
My wife and I were standing outside a Scottsdale jewelry store the day after Halloween when we began to hear the "sounds of Christmas." We looked at each other with amazement as Christmas began to permeate the air of the mall parking lot. Each year it appears that the winter holidays arrive earlier than the year before, making it more difficult for many to avoid the holiday blues.
The extension of the holidays has become an issue of contention. This morning I learned that one gentleman has even established a website called, Campaign for a Shorter Christmas (CASC)! As my father-in-law states, if you follow the dollar you will find the meaning as to why certain things happen. This early start to the Christmas shopping season is no exception. Many businesses will thrive on the extended window of opportunity for shoppers to fill their stores during this holiday season. And although a longer holiday shopping season may be fruitful for many merchants, I have to wonder if it is in the best interest of many people. I also have to wonder how all of this extended build-up to the actual holiday serves the traditions that we are observing.
Often people have a difficult time handling the season-driven holiday cheer and find they are experiencing the "holiday blues." Extending the time of preparation and celebration merely makes their sadness that much more profound. Rather than getting caught up in the excitement of the holiday season, many people who experience the blues, view the holidays as a mirror which reflects their painful memories. Some of these people have lost loved ones, forfeited jobs, ended relationships, and have found themselves far away from family. The expectations of gaiety and joyfulness merely reflect and illuminate what is missing for them at this time.
Often people with the holiday blues feel guilty and disappointed because they are unable to meet the expectations of a joyful holiday season. They may have reason to feel sad, but they try to discount those feelings in order to uphold the sacredness of the positive traditions. When the holidays create this sadness, there are ways you can relieve the intensity of the blues. You can:
- Share your sad feelings with significant others.
- Focus on the real traditions and meaning of a holiday rather than the artificial commercial build-up of the season.
- Teach your children that the spirit of Christmas is about giving to others who are less fortunate than you. The spirit of the holiday is about giving, not about receiving.
- Don't worry about whether your children are getting enough gifts for the holiday. Most kids tell me that they don't care as much about the gifts they receive as their parents think they do. The evidence of this is the untouched gifts a few weeks later.
- Let your children make a wish list. Be honest about what you can afford. They will understand. Your honesty is worth far more to them than gifts.
- Avoid the aspects of the holiday which intensify the feelings of sadness. Turn off the endless holiday music. Avoid excessive shopping. Make plans for a simpler, comfortable celebration.
- Reframe your perspective about holidays. Most of this season has become commercially driven. Merchants are happy when shoppers buy more.
- Keep in mind that others feel as you do — sad during the holiday season.
- Remember that the holidays are truly about feeling connected to other people and to the religious traditions reflecting one's concept of God.
Sad people may view the extended holiday season as a time to be endured, rather than celebrated. It really is acceptable to feel that way. Fortunately, holiday seasons are time-limited. It is important to not get caught up in what others think and feel about the holidays. Focus on making the holidays a simple and sacred experience with family or friends.
James P. Krehbiel is a licensed professional counselor and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He can be reached at (480) 664-6665 or through krehbielcounseling.com.