Some of us love and look forward to the holiday season. Others of us dread it. But did you know that the holiday blues can start as early as September and October? I see it all the time in my office: the leaves start to fly and moods go down. As the holidays are still a ways off, it can take some detective work to realize that the low mood (or increased anxiety, tearfulness, or worry) is due to the change of season and impending holidays.
Folks dread the holidays for lots of reasons: past (and/or current) family drama, financial problems, marital strain, grief, absence of family and friends, spiritual ambiguity. There are many reasons for the holiday blues – and it seems that more and more people experience them each year. So, what to do if your autumn is being gobbled up by the dread of the upcoming months?
Live in the moment. When you notice yourself thinking and worrying about November and December, take a few deep breaths and focus on the present. I know, this is much easier said than done, but it is still worth a try. If it means avoiding Costco and the mall with all their holiday decorations, so be it.
Throw a wrench in the works. Do you hate going to your in-laws every year for Thanksgiving? Now’s the time to discuss alternative plans for the holiday with your partner. Who says you can’t go camping over the holiday and celebrate with franks, beans, and s’mores? Overwhelmed at the thought of spending too much money for Christmas presents? Now’s the time to talk to your family about foregoing presents for the year, exchanging only small items, or doing one secret Santa gift instead of buying for everyone.
Find a new meaning. Some folks find great meaning in the pilgrims’ stories in New England and the birth of Jesus. Others not so much. If the traditional stories don’t resonate with you, try figuring out something that does – outrageous overeating, mass consumption, the need for Martha Stewart-like perfection, and adding to your credit card debt don’t count. Is this a good time of year to volunteer at your kids’ school? A local shelter? Donate blood? Is it a time to focus on family and friends? Time to learn a new skill or try something new? Whatever it is, make it mean something.
Need some other ideas for warding off the holiday blues? Check out my post: Sex, Costumes, and Rock Band: The Ingredients for a Stress-Free Holiday over at APA’s Your Mind. Your Body.