Surviving the Holidays in Good Spirits!
Four tips to help make it through the holidays in good spirits — despite hanging out with your family!
- by Dr. Christina Richardson
Around the holidays people like me who suffer from depression have a lot of company. Holidays are highly charged events and for some it is a time of joy and happiness. For others, there are feelings of loss and sadness. Old slights and painful experiences get dragged out of the past during the holidays. So many memories are relived, the good and the bad.
So many get the holiday blues and it is every bit as real as what I experience. Winston Churchill suffered from depression, which he referred to as the “Black Dog.” Mine is more like “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” of Sherlock Holmes fame. When that hound howls, I go into survival mode.
I talk to my friends and tell them that the hound has returned; I eat complete nourishing meals and exercise. I get enough sleep and say no when I am not up to participating. I have had years of coping and usually I can work my way out in a week or so.
All of us have an internal landscape that is imbedded in our memory, so the sights and smells, sounds and routines of the season can in an instant return us to our childhood.
If things aren’t going well due to family conflict, a death in the family, breakups, divorce, loneliness, stress at work or money issues, the holidays can be a nightmare.
The risk factors to holiday depression are setting up unrealistic expectations, trying to do too much, not taking care of yourself, and comparing yourself with others. Most families do not have the TV perfect holiday they would like to have or that they remember from their childhood.
Here are four tips to help survive the holidays:
Be good to you.
How is it that when we are with family over holidays we revert to teenagers and pick up the arguing as if we were still thirteen? We may fight with our siblings or remember all the hurts we have ever experienced. Try to treat yourself: take a walk and spend some time alone. Remember who you are now and that you have new gifts to bring to the celebration.
Say no. If you are asked to do more that you can or are not up to, say "no, thank you" or "thanks for asking, but you'll need to delegate someone else." Accept that perfection is not a requirement for enjoying the season. If decorating like a designer is your forté, go for it. If you are like me, you'll wish you could hang things from the ceiling out of reach of the pets.
Be realistic and keep your sense of humor. Focus on this year instead of the past. Create new traditions and just enjoy the people you are with. Remember what Erma Bombeck said: “Holiday dinners take about 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Halftime takes 12 minutes. This is no coincidence.”
Stay connected. Spend time with family and friends who care about you. In this holiday season of Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Chanukah, may you be with family and friends who love you.