In my last post I spoke about Merry Melancholy and why the holidays are not always so happy. As I am suffering from both physical and emotional pain, especially during this time of year, I have put together some tips on how to put the happy back in the holidays.
1- Know when to get help.
First, depression can feel like it will never end, but in most cases, I can tell you from a personal and professional standpoint, that it will ease up. However, if your depression is serious and you feel as though you may harm yourself, please seek medical attention.
2- Let go of perfection.
If you are like me and you remember perfect holidays from your childhood and you are trying to recreate them, look back on those holidays with adult eyes. I don’t mean to look back at the negative or to tarnish wonderful memories, but look at the “perfect” Christmas for what it really was and try not to hold yourself to an impossible standard. You are not a Kay Jewelers commercial.
Like I said in the earlier post, I remember Norman Rockwell Christmases as a child, but I know that behind the perfect picture I was seeing was a lot of stress. Perhaps the “perfect” holiday only seemed perfect because I was with my family and there was enough love to cover the many imperfections. I remember one particular Christmas, when I was about eleven, when I began to see just how hard it was for my parents to pull off these perfect festivities. Santa always came to visit on Christmas Eve which just seemed…magical. Even after I stopped believing, Santa’s visit was still just so fun. I’m sure, however, that it was not as much fun for my Uncle Fran, who sadly passed away this year, who dressed up as Santa. One year, to combat the kid’s pulling off his beard and exposing his true identity, he used glue to secure his beard. It worked. No one saw that Santa was actually a young Italian, but that evening I remember seeing my uncle, my mother and my aunt in the bathroom at Grandma’s house trying to unglue his beard while Uncle Fran used some pretty un-merry words as his skin was being ripped off. It was hysterical and it just goes to show you that there is no such thing as perfection, it’s about perception.
3- It’s okay not to be happy.
If you are not happy and merry, it’s okay. Remember, 45% of people are not as happy as they seem during the holidays, so you are not alone. Try not to let being down get you down. Sometimes, hyper-focusing on the fact that you are not happy when you are supposed to be can make you feel even more agitated and unhappy. I sometimes go to parties and feel very sad. I don’t force myself to be happy, yet sometimes, without trying, I am able to smile and enjoy myself. The pressure to be happy only leads to more unhappiness, so let it go. You are human and no one expects you to be jolly all the time, after all, you are not Santa Claus.
4- Take care of yourself.
If you suffer from chronic pain, like I do, schedule a few appointments to pamper yourself. Book a massage, get a pedicure, or just take a bath and try to ease your pain. If money is tight, like it is for most, make sure to book time off just for yourself and relax, read a book. Take some you time and enjoy your decorations.
Remember to take your medications, even with the crazy scheduling and, of course, check the warnings on any medications you take to be sure that adding a few cups of eggnog are not going to make you feel worse! I know that pain doesn’t disappear during the holidays and that it can put a damper on events, and that’s okay. It’s not your fault you are in pain and your friends and loved ones should understand if you can’t make it or stay through every event. Although the holidays are about good will towards others, do yourself a favor and take care of YOU first. You can’t help others if you don’t help yourself first.
5- Screw New Year’s resolutions.
There, I said it. Same goes for thinking back on the year. The year was what it was and harping on what you did or didn’t do won’t change anything. I pretend that January 1st is the same as any other day. When I want to change something in my life, I do it when I am ready, not just because it is the first day of the year. It is okay to think back on the year and have hopes for the future, but ruminating on either (or both) will only increase your anxiety and depression. For auld lang syne, my dear.
6- Set holiday spending limits.
Finally, when it comes to spending, set limits and try to stick to them. When the over-commercialization of the holidays gets to you, try to think about the non-commercial joys in your life, like family and friends, and especially pets. If you are Christian, take time to pray and to remember that the Christmas season is supposed to be about Christ, not Macy’s and Target.
The holidays can be a very difficult time of year for many people. I have to remind myself every day that the depression will ease up. When I feel sad, especially during the happy holidays, I try to lean on those I love the most. I try (not always successfully) to focus on the things I love about this time of year and to be thankful for what I do have.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and if you are not merry or happy, that’s okay too.
What do you do to battle holiday blues?