Squyres: Avoiding the blues this holiday season
Despite what you may believe from watching seasonal movies and TV commercials, the holiday blues affect a surprising number of people. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 64% of those surveyed admitted to feeling affected by the holiday blues and 24% said that they were affected a lot.
There is so much hype and such high expectations around this time of year, it’s easy to understand why the holidays can bring so many people down. While not a formal psychiatric diagnosis, the symptoms can be quite debilitating and can include exhaustion, fatigue, sleep problems, loss of interest or pleasure in the activities you usually like or think you should enjoy, trouble making decisions, difficulty concentrating, loneliness and social withdrawal, and feeling irritable or grouchy.
Just think Scrooge before his visits from the ghosts or the Grinch before growing his tiny heart and you get the idea. It’s a shame that the holidays, which are supposed to bring so much joy, can bring to so much misery instead.
Here’s a list of 12 tips for getting through the Christmas season without singin’ the blues.
- Remember that all the ordinary tasks of daily living continue throughout the holiday season, so stick to your regular routines as much as possible.
- Get enough sleep. You’ll have a better tomorrow with enough shuteye than staying out too late and dragging yourself around the following day.
- Be careful about alcohol consumption. Hangovers or a DUI will do nothing for your holiday cheer.
- Stay active. Keep up with your regular exercise routine. We live in an outdoor paradise. Put on those skis, snowboards, snowshoes or ice skates and get moving. Don’t forget the simple joys of sledding and snowball fights. Don’t you want to build a snowman?
- Remember that every holiday decoration you put up has to come down. So, decorate to your heart’s content but only as much as won’t stress you out when it’s time to disassemble your masterpiece.
- Avoid overcommitting. Many of us work during the holidays, so be cautious about promising too much of your limited time and energy. It’s impossible to party all night, work all day and stay in a good mood.
- Be realistic about your budget when it comes to gifting and partying. It’s better to buy what you can afford than having to face credit card bills you can’t pay in January.
- Be social in whatever way works for you. You aren’t obligated to attend every function you’re invited to, and you don’t have to stay from start to finish.
- Enjoy holiday activities, parties and events, but don’t overdo it.
- Make time for relaxation and solitude to help you stay calm and balanced.
- Be attentive to your own self-care. Eat right, rest, get massages, hang out with people who make you happy, and make time for the things that matter to you.
- Use social media in a positive and mindful way. Remember, Facebook and Instagram are about sharing the good stuff; what you see is not a complete and accurate representation of other people’s whole lives. Share your own best moments and remember that what other people are sharing are their best moments as well. Be happy for them and grateful for the good things in your own life. Don’t engage in negative social comparisons that lead you to conclude everyone else’s life is a bed of poinsettia while yours is just a bed of thorns.
What’s unique about getting through the holidays in Eagle County? A lot. Since we are a resort community, many of our residents work more during the holidays than at any other time of year. This can make our holidays less about fun and celebrating and more about powering through a lot of stress, pressure and demands.
On the other hand, we have a whole host of exciting events and activities that we locals shouldn’t just leave for the tourists. So, get out there and watch ski races, ice skating shows and “The Nutcracker.” Listen to live music, and indulge in the culinary delights of the season.
Since so many of us are from somewhere else, we often don’t have a nearby extended family network to join with for holiday celebrations. Remember, friends can be the family you choose rather than those to whom you happen to be related.
Above all, keep your expectations in check. Think about the experiences you want from this holiday season. Put them at the top of your to-do list and cross off the ones that give you the dreads. That’s the secret to enjoying the holidays with happiness, grace and comfort and avoiding the holiday blues.
Jill Squyres, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in practice in Eagle and a board member of SpeakUp ReachOut, the Suicide Prevention Coalition of the Eagle Valley. Dr. Squyres will be speaking on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, at a free Holiday Blues Community Talk hosted by Vail Health and Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. Dr. Squyres can be reached at 970-306- 6986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.