“During the holiday season, there’s just so much to do and not enough hours in the day,” says Julie Kugler-Bentley, RN, LCSW-C, CEAP of Meritus Health’s Behavioral Health. Women in particular can feel overwhelmed by all the holiday prep work explains Julie. Between work, family commitments and extra holiday tasks, women’s “me time” falls off the radar screen and stress builds. “This is a time when fewer deposits are put into the emotional bank account,” says Julie.
Women and men can feel the financial pinch and remember some not-so-pleasant memories from holidays past—both triggering the holiday blues. For some, a loss of a loved one during the holidays weighs heavy on the mind. Yet expectations remain high with gift-giving, entertaining and recreating family traditions. Many strive for that perfect Currier and Ives yuletide scene or a party ripped from the pages of Martha Stewart Living, but this pressure can morph into the blues.
We can’t control the season’s arrival, but we can control how we experience the holiday season. “Find ways to do things more simply,” encourages Julie. “Sit down with your family and talk about how you can make a more meaningful holiday.” Julie shares these tips to help you through this time of year.
Slip out the back, Jack. This is especially hard for women, but you must honor your personal time advises Julie. Keep exercise, reading and downtime on your schedule even if it’s only for 30 minutes each day. Maintaining some normalcy can soothe your mind and body.
Delegate. Ask your spouse to web-shop while he watches football. Let your kids dry mop your floors (my kids love to Swiffer). Turn your holiday gathering into a potluck.
Say no to activities that put you over the edge. Even though your cousin’s cookie exchange is a tradition, baking three dozen cookies five days before Christmas is not a good idea. If you must go, seek out a quality bakery and buy the cookies!
Simplify. “It’s not just one family experiencing a tight budget,” says Julie. She encourages families to draw names for gift exchanges or write meaningful cards to those extra folks on your list like hair stylists, teachers and mail carriers.
Start new traditions. If old traditions bring back bad memories or remind you of loved ones lost, try a new custom. Volunteer to run food baskets to the needy, change up the holiday meal plan or organize a caroling party.
Beware of booze. It’s ok to raise a glass in cheer, but be mindful of how much you drink at holiday gatherings. Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is a depressant and can intensify your depression and anxiety.
The holiday blues are not a form of clinical depression says Julie. However, if your mood remains sour after the jingle bells stop ringing, talk to your primary care physician, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW-C) or a licensed professional counselor (LCPC). Experiencing five or more symptoms below (more days than not) for a two-week duration means it’s time to seek help.
- Depressed mood
- Decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Appetite change with an associated weight loss or gain
- Sleep disturbance such as insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness
- Restlessness or irritability
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty with concentration
- Recurrent thoughts of death or feeling like “the world would be better without me”
By: Anne Gill