For many most people, the holidays are a fun time of the year filled with parties, celebrations, and social gatherings with family and friends. But for others it is a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness, and anxiety.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, former assistant professor of pathology in the Georgetown University School of Medicine and currently serves on the Medical Editorial Board of MedicineNet.com, and is the chief medical editor of eMedicineHealth.com. In an article for MedicineNet.com Stöppler outlined causes of holiday sadness, as well as tips for coping with that sadness.
Sadness is a truly personal feeling. What makes one person feel sad may not affect another person. Typical sources of holiday sadness include:
- unrealistic expectations,
- financial stress, and
- the inability to be with one's family and friends.
In addition, balancing the demands of shopping, parties, family obligations, and house guests may contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed and increased tension. People who do not view themselves as depressed may develop stress responses, such as
- excessive spending
- overeating, and
- Make realistic expectations for the holiday season.
- Set realistic goals.
- Pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
- Make a list and prioritize the important activities. This can help make holiday tasks more manageable.
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
- Do not put all your energy into just one day (for example, Thanksgiving Day, New Year's Eve). The holiday cheer can be spread from one holiday event to the next.
- Live "in the moment" and enjoy the present.
- Look to the future with optimism.
- Don't set yourself up for disappointment and sadness by comparing today with the "good old days" of the past.
- If you are lonely, try volunteering some of your time to help others.
- Find holiday activities that are free, such as looking at holiday decorations, going window shopping without buying, and watching the winter weather, whether it's a snowflake or a raindrop.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol, since excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression
- Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
- Spend time with supportive and caring people.
- Reach out and make new friends.
- Make time to contact a long lost friend or relative and spread some holiday cheer.
- Make time for yourself!
- Let others share the responsibilities of holiday tasks.
- Keep track of your holiday spending. Overspending can lead to depression when the bills arrive after the holidays are over. Extra bills with little budget to pay them can lead to further stress and depression.