Dazzling window displays, merry Santas and chestnuts roasting by an open fire. Tis the season to be jolly. Or is it? Now that Christmas and Hannukah are nearly upon us, many people find themselves struggling with feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. Instead of experiencing joy, they’re plunged into a state of near despair as they try to navigate elaborate family dinners, frenzied gift-giving and a numbing round of social events.
Is there a solution? The following tips are useful in mitigating the feelings of sadness, loneliness and emptiness so prevalent at this time of year.
Reach out to others. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are helped by forming new social connections. Visiting residents in a nursing home, serving a meal at a homeless shelter or bringing a bag of canned pet food and toys to an animal shelter is a positive step.
Experience gratitude. Bruce Rappaport, licensed professional counselor, says, “The most spiritual and uplifting quality I know is living the attitude of gratitude. No matter who you are, the fact that you’re still here, means that you have at least one thing you can be grateful about in your life right now.”
Don’t be afraid to delegate. Martyrs are self-made. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you are hosting family events or holiday dinners. No one expects you to do it all by yourself, and if they do, their expectations are unrealistic. Schedule some down time. Reading, writing, taking a nature walk, being alone and listening to music are all valuable pastimes that can yield big results. It’s important to schedule these blocks of time and to think of them “as an appointment with myself.”
Let go of the past. There is a natural desire to keep things “as they were,”and to mourn the loss of key people in our lives. My clients tell me that the holidays are meaningless without their loved ones and they find difficult to move forward and create new traditions, new rituals. Embrace change and make a conscious decision to forge ahead. Every minute you spend lamenting “the good old days” is time you could spend exploring the future.
Is it the blues or clinical depression? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nineteen million Americans experience clinical depression every year. Recognize that some degree of sadness is normal but feeling so overwhelmed you can’t function is not. If you are having concentrating, remembering and making decisions, along with persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, it may be time to seek professional help.
Dr. Mary Kennedy is a licensed psychologist in private practice in the northeast, and the author of The Talk Radio Mysteries for Penguin. Visit her at www.marykennedy.net
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