“It’s coming on Christmas. They’re cutting down trees. They’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace. Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” –Joni Mitchell
Every Christmas, I listen to the usual barrage of holiday-themed music. But this one, “River” by Joni Mitchell, with its slow and sad echoes of “Jingle Bells” hits home in a way that many do not. There may be “No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” but for many of us, the holiday season is a minefield of mental health triggers. Home starts to feel like it’s not the best place to be.
This may not be the case for you. You may breeze through November and December in a poultry, sweet potato pie, gingerbread, latke, and hot chocolate induced euphoria that leaves you feeling that all is right with the world.
But this is probably not you, and it is definitely not me.
This is not your fault. Seasonal triggers abound. It’s dark outside. It’s cold. Holiday events disrupt routines, diets, and sleep patterns. Extra stressors, often financial and emotional, add fuel to the fire. And then there is the pressure to “make merry.” We are “supposed” to be happy at the holidays.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) calls this the “Holiday Blues.” Basically, it means that anxiety, stress, and depression are heightened during the holiday season. 64 percent of people experience some form of holiday blues, and nearly 25 percent of people admit that holiday depression and anxiety has a large impact on them. We are, in other words, not alone.
So what are some recommendations on how to cope with the holidays? Here are some tips from NAMI:
- Try to keep your routines as much as possible.
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise—even if it is just a short walk
- Practice moderation with eating and drinking. Food and alcohol intake can impact your moods
- Prioritize your tasks—keep it simple
- Be realistic in your expectations for the holiday season. Try saying “no” (ADD LINK TO MY OTHER ARTICLE)
- Set a budget for holiday activities so you do not overextend yourself financially
- Find ways to relax—mindfulness, music. Taking time for yourself is key
Lastly, remember these three things.
First, this, too, shall pass. The holiday blues do not last forever.
Second, it is not your job to be happy during the holidays. All you need to be is yourself.
Third, there is always the Hallmark Channel and its endless stream of holiday fare to keep your mind off of the worries of the season.