I'm going to interrupt my series on individual therapists to introduce a respected colleague, David Fisher, MFT. David and I have worked together for many years and he accepted my invitation to write an occasional guest column on this blog. Today his message is a timely one, dealing with the "holiday blues." I'll be back next week.
What Are the Holiday Blues?
We’re all enjoying the warmth and closeness of family and friends during this “season of joy”, right? Then how come so many people get “the blues”? The contrast between the festive mood surrounding you and your own ‘blah’ feeling naturally makes you wonder why you’re not ‘feeling it’. The Holiday Blues like all blues, is like a fever. Just as a fever is a sign that something is not quite right physically, the Holiday Blues could be a sign that something is not quite right emotionally.
For parents the holidays blues is about the children. Parents want to make everything right for the holidays. They wish the hurts, rivalries and misunderstanding which all families experience, will magically vanish during the holidays. When they don’t parents feel that somehow they have failed. This leads to disappointment and the blues.
The holiday blues is about money. The recession and slow recovery created unemployment or underemployment for many. People can’t afford things they once could. The message of the season is ‘buy, buy, buy.’ The emphasis on looking good in the eyes of others instead of relating in a genuine way often brings on the holiday blues.
The holiday blues is about alcohol. People drink to celebrate the holidays. There are often many gatherings where there is an expectation to drink, and subtle, or not so subtle, pressures to drink more then you normally do. Perhaps the memory of a previous holiday when a family member went from ‘Dr. Jekyll’ to ‘Mr. Hyde’ reminds you that the holidays were not always happy times. Some people drink more then they should to cope with tension from all the pressures of the season. Since alcohol is a depressant, it’s no surprise — they’ve got the holiday blues.
The holiday blues is about loneliness and grief. We remember loved ones who are no longer with us. We miss the holiday rituals we shared, like decorating the Christmas tree or lighting Chanukkah candles. Their absence during these activities is a sad reminder of how much we miss them. If you are single you might have the blues because you don’t have a special person with whom to share holiday activities.
So here’s a few helpful hints to deal with the Holiday Blues. Make a list of pleasurable activities and make time to incorporate them into your busy holiday schedule.
A healthy diet, exercise and adequate rest are a remedy for the blues.
For parents of young children keeping to everyday routines as much as possible is reassuring and reduces stress.
If you know someone who is a good listener share your feelings about your holiday blues.
Most of all, take time out to help others. You can be that good listener. If you’ve achieved sobriety, you can help someone still struggling with alcohol abuse. There are many gifts you can give to those less fortunate then you, that don’t involve money.
That’s how you beat the holiday blues!
Next week Josh writes about: how does talking help someone get better?
Do you have a question about struggles with your partner or within yourself? Is there a particular topic on relationships or individual psychological issues you would like addressed in this blog? Ask Josh in the comments below or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Josh Gressel, Ph.D., is a couples and individual therapist based in Pleasant Hill. Visit his website at joshgressel.com. He is accepting new referrals.