Beating the Winter Blues
BEATING THE WINTER BLUES
By Stephanie Harrison | MA, LPC
Many of us face the winter or holiday blues, and there are multiple reasons that may contribute: stress of holiday demands such as extra events to attend or decorating or cooking to be done, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, memories of holidays past, pressures of gift giving and financial stress, over-commercialization, the pressure and expectations to feel or be “merry” during this time, reminders of lost loved ones accompanied with feelings of grief, inability to be with family during the holidays, loneliness, and reduced amount of sunlight. Wow! What a list.
As reported on healthline.com, approximately 14% of Americans experience the “winter blues.(1)” According to Psychology Today, 38% of people surveyed said their stress level increased during the holiday season(2). While the majority of those surveyed reported feelings of happiness, love, and high spirits over the holidays, those emotions were often accompanied by feelings of fatigue, stress, irritability, and sadness.
DECREASING HOLIDAY BLUES
With so many stressors, there are several ways to combat and decrease holiday blues.The first would be acceptance. Instead of pretending or beating yourself up and shaming yourself for not being as happy as others around you, accept emotionally where you are. For instance, if you have had a loved one pass this year or there have been some financial hardships, accept the fact that this holiday season is different for you than other seasons in the past.
Next, set realistic expectations, plan, and prioritize. Many people have school events for kids, work parties, family and church obligations during the holiday season. But the number of hours in a day remains the same. In many cases, it is too stressful to attend every function. Talk with family members, and pray about which events matter most. Then plan or schedule to be at those events. Limit your obligations.
Additionally, change your emotional tone, self-talk, and thinking concerning those activities. Instead of saying: “I have to attend Johnnie’s band performance,” tell yourself, “I get to go see Johnnie show off his skills.” How we phrase things in our mind greatly impacts how we view holiday events or obligations.
Third, schedule down time. Many Americans get paid time-off for these special holidays. Use some of that time to unwind, rest, watch favorite holiday movies, make crafts, or play games with family and friends. Take a break from the holiday hustle and bustle.
Volunteering is also a great way to use extra time during this season. Giving to or serving others less fortunate than ourselves helps remind us of all the many blessings we have that we often take for granted. For instance, serving hot meals at a homeless shelter helps us to be thankful for our stoves and ovens and the ability to cook for ourselves. Helping sponsor Christmas gifts for children through various non-profits, whether local, national, or international help to remind us and our children of those less fortunate around the world or in our communities.
Plan time to express gratitude to God and to others in your life. Often we complain and grumble about what we have to do, but we fail to thank God for the ability to do all these holiday activities or that we have people in our lives whose company we enjoy. A letter written or words shared of genuine, heartfelt appreciation to those closest to us will be remembered long after the gift they received.
Most importantly, remember the reason for CHRIST-mas. God loved each and every one of us, so much that He gave His One and Only Son, JESUS. He came at Christmas, but 33 years later, would die on Good Friday and rise on Easter to secure for us salvation, peace with God, an inheritance, an eternity in His Presence, and an eternal home of joy and love UNENDING.
No matter the schedule or the gifts, HE alone is WORTHY of CELEBRATION. HE truly is the Reason for the Season.
Other tips for battling the winter blues include:
Set a budget for gift-giving
Find time to exercise
Spend as much time in sunlight as possible
Drink plenty of water
Do activities like driving around looking at holiday lights or attending Christmas parades that don’t require spending money