If you find yourself gritting your teeth when you hear Christmas carols, wanting to wring the neck of the next person who wishes you happy holidays, or feel the tears starting when you see decorations, how can you get through the season?
Many people enjoy the holidays, and yet, for others, the holidays are a time of sadness. It can be due to losing a loved one, divorce, poor health, job loss, or past distress, to name a few reasons. Even those who enjoy the season often find it stressful because of the time, financial, and physical demands placed on us.
The American Psychological Association has a number of suggestions to help with the stress, which include taking time for yourself, volunteering, having realistic expectations, remembering what’s important, and seeking support.
These are all very good ideas for diminishing stress from the holidays, but they are not always easy to put into practice. So, here’s a little more to help.
#1 — Take time for yourself, but take it in small chunks and apply what seems possible.
Find small—and maybe big—ways to take care of yourself, whether it be sitting down with a cup of hot chocolate, going for a walk, or taking an extra Zumba class.
#2 — Volunteer wisely.
Volunteer where you can and when you can in order to take your mind off yourself.
#3 — Dial back your expectations of yourself, others, and the season itself.
Remind yourself that no one can do it all.
#4 — Remind yourself of your most important values around the holidays.
Figure out how you can best honor those values through your attitude and behaviors.
#5 — Seek support but also reach out to be supportive of others.
Let go of the idea of doing it all yourself or putting up with critical people.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
For those who truly deal with various degrees of depression over the holidays, the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, known as ACT, can be helpful. Developed mainly by Steven Hayes, Ph.D., ACT teaches that by increasing your ability to be mindfully aware of present experience with less distress and more curiosity, you will be better able to take effective action that is more aligned with your core values and be more flexible in response to the demands of the situation.
For example, a few years ago I was feeling sad around Thanksgiving because my mother had died and neither of my children would be able to come home. I wasn’t looking forward to the usual family get together where others would be with spouses and children because I was feeling so down. It helped to be mindful of the sadness, accept the feelings without reacting out of them, and be more aware others in similar situations. This practice led me to some changes in behaviors that helped get me through a difficult holiday season and not be a Scrooge. It did help.
Some people are able to talk themselves through the ACT process. Others need some assistance. And still others are experiencing a more severe depression, rather than the “holiday blues.” If you need help, reach out. Call Mercy Concern Professional Counseling Services at 330-489-1415 for more information or to schedule an appointment for counseling. If you’re having thoughts of harming yourself or others, call the Crisis Intervention & Recovery Center at 330-452-6000 or go to your local emergency room. Those thoughts are a symptom of the severity of depression, and help is available.