I fancy myself an authority on feeling blue around the holidays.
This time of year conjures up mixed and complex emotions for me. And feeling blue just seems like something I am obliged to. While not a very uplifting topic, I decided to put a positive spin on the time of year I struggle with most as I’m sure I’m not alone. Let’s all get happy together.
Days are longer and seasonal affective disorder seems to be the cause du jour. Many of us, myself included, are light sensitive and are easily affected by its absence. Couple this with one of the most stressful times of the year and you inevitably can have a recipe for feeling down or stressed.
Does it have to be this way? Can you snap yourself out of it and simply decide to rise to the occasion and have yourself a merry time? For me, it’s not a matter of snapping out of it as I live with bipolar disease and those who suffer from similar diseases often have pronounced difficulties during this time of year. There’s no magic bullet to allay these feelings.
I’m not a medical doctor nor claim to be, so as always, I encourage anyone feeling depressed or anxious or dramatically out of sorts to seek sound medical advice and talk about what you’re feeling.
And while for me there’s no substitute for the medications I take for my bipolar disease or for the talk therapy I engage in once a week, there are some additional things I can do that can add to my overall state of being. I can make a difference in my own happiness.
I came up with a list of what may seem like simple tasks, but together have a positive and uplifting effect on my psyche and generally give me a better sense of well being. I would love to hear from readers as to what little tricks you use to keep yourself in good holiday cheer and help alleviate anxiety and stress during the holidays.
Act as if you are happy. Feeling generally follows action so doing things you do when you are at peace can sometimes produce positive effects. Pretending to be happy can sometimes cause happiness to “rub off” on you.
Make your bed and do the dishes. Don’t let things pile up until they become daunting. Your physical environment affects your mental state of mind.
Surround yourself with upbeat and positive people ad nauseum — they are sure to rub off on you. There are people who can be disgustingly chipper around the holidays and they can balance out our misery. Sitting on Santa’s lap may be just what the doctor ordered.
Don’t drink excessively — keep alcohol in moderation. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and will interrupt sleep patterns. And it may make you do something foolish at the office holiday party.
Eat healthy. Overdoing fatty foods and innocuous sweets can lead to feelings of guilt and pack on the “holiday five.” Have a healthy snack before the next party you go to, so you don’t overindulge.
Get to the gym. Now is not the time to let your exercise program go by the wayside. We know exercise equals stress release and those endorphins work.
Don’t over schedule. Three parties in one night is enough to stress anyone out. Decide which party is most important to you and spend the most time there.
Avoid overspending. This may not stress you out this month, but next month’s bill will.
Pamper yourself. Take time to take those hot baths, get a massage or take your spouse to a nice restaurant. While holidays are indeed a time for giving, it’s just as important to give to yourself.
Ask for help. You don’t have to go it alone. Others likely share your struggles. Talk to your friends, spouse, clergy, etc. and express that this is often a difficult time of year. Talking about your emotions may make you feel better. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.
Sleep well. Get as much sleep as you can or at least maintain your current sleep schedule.
And when in doubt, fake it until you make it. I don’t want to sound trite, but often your state of mind or attitude can affect your mood. If I decide I’m going to have a miserable month of December, I will. On the contrary and not to oversimplify, if I decide to do what I can to enjoy the holidays, I may actually have a good time.
Now is not the time to re-invent the wheel, but a time to stay close to routine and not make dramatic shifts in your schedule and to surround yourself with positive upbeat people. If you’re accustomed to being the holiday Scrooge, you can make this year different.