Friday, November 20, 2009

Does “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” leave you with the blues? Thoughts on how to make this holiday season less stressful and more enjoyable.

By Gina Newsome Duncan, M.D. 
The holiday season can, indeed, be a wonderful and exciting time of year, but for some, it can also be stressful and overwhelming. Many of us tend to overextend ourselves during the holidays, both with our time and our finances. This can take a huge toll, leaving some of us physically exhausted and financially spent come January.

With the current economy, some people may feel pressured to make up for the cutbacks they’ve had to make in recent months by spending above their means. Others may be more realistic about what they can afford, but worry that they won’t be able to have a good holiday on a budget. We tend to think of the holiday season as a time for family, however, bringing everyone together can also be stressful if there are unresolved tensions within the family.

If you’re worried about being able to afford gifts this holiday season, talk with your loved ones about the real meaning of the holidays for your family. Do things that are consistent with your religious and cultural traditions.

The season may be bittersweet for some adults. If reminded of losses such as the loss of a loved one, find a way to incorporate old traditions and honor your loved ones during this season.

Here are some tips to help you cope with the holiday blues:

Don’t focus on having the “perfect” holiday. Focus instead on having an enjoyable holiday, and that includes time for relaxation.

Examine and then lower expectations—both those that you have of yourself and those that others have of you. Do you expect that you have to create the perfect holiday and give the perfect gift? Do you expect others to give you the perfect gift? Do you expect your children or relatives to be on their best behavior at all times? If so, you will likely be disappointed. Things are rarely (if ever!) perfect. Having this mindset will make it more likely that you will run yourself ragged and end the season feeling exhausted and inadequate.

Avoid overspending, as this will only cause increased post-holiday stress when you get your bank statement. Where possible, consider giving homemade gifts. Baked goods make delicious presents and are a lot less expensive than individual store-bought gifts. They also allow you to give something of yourself in a tangible way.

Do something nice for yourself. Take a break from your shopping and make time for a bubble bath or a nice walk.

Don’t be afraid to say no. Setting limits can be difficult. But overextending yourself can leave you feeling underappreciated and resentful. It’s hard to have the “holiday spirit” when you feel that way!

If worried about not having enough, try giving to the less fortunate. This can often produce a change in our perspective.

Shop online if the mall is too stressful.

For some, the holiday season itself is always enjoyable, but the months that follow can be difficult. The winter season in some areas of the country may not end until late March or early April. Some find that their moods go down predictably during this time of year. Read Dr. Felicia K. Wong’s recent post on Seasonal Affective Disorder for tips on coping with this common form of depression.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Gina for your thoughtful ideas. They caused me to reflect and view my life in two parts or halfs at this point. Can remember rushing out for the sales on the day after Thanksgiving. It would have been almost 25 years ago now. For the past 24 years, Advent has been the focus of the season for me. So rather than shopping for gifts, it's the lighting of the Advent wreath, the Angel Tree gifts for children whose parents are incarcerated and the lovely service on Christmas Eve. Thanks for the reminder of what is really imporant -- the real reason for the season! Juliette


Comments are reviewed before posting, and comments that include profanity or other inappropriate material will not be posted. The comment section is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional medical advice. All decisions about clinical care should be made in consultation with your treating physician. If you need help with a mental health issue, please visit our resource page.