The Holiday Blues
It’s something that many of us hear about every year about this time. Some of us are more familiar with what that means than others. If you haven’t ever experienced the holiday blues, consider yourself fortunate. For those that have, this posting is for you.
First, what are The Holiday Blues? As with just about everything, there is not one correct answer, but the gist is those feelings of despair, sadness, loneliness and/or depression that someone might feel, more so around the holidays. Hence the name: Holiday Blues.
That’s not to say that they feel them only during those holiday times, but certainly they can be felt exponentially depending on a person’s specific challenges and situation in their life. As well, there are many more reasons for the Holiday Blues than I’ve listed here, but these are the ones I’m most familiar with. And what I’m not talking about is general depression. That is an entirely different ballpark to the seasonal one, and if you suffer as many do from depression year long, the Holiday Blues only worsen it and I’m not sure anything I can in this post can help you with that.
So if you are feeling that level of depression and haven’t yet sought professional help, I beg you to do so. Now.
Because I do care.
I, for one, have never experienced some of the problems that people face such as being homeless, having no family or friends, and just an overall sense of helplessness. Surely I’ve had issues with my depression over the years and I’m not in any way dismissing that in such a way that would sound like depression isn’t a serious issue, but I’ve been so fortunate in my life that I have always had a stable roof over my head, warm meals in my belly (and then some) and have been surrounded by love by family and friends. And yet I’ve experienced some of those holiday blues, even with still having those wonderful things in my life.
So imagine someone who doesn’t have even those things that we take for granted.
Or maybe they have them but despite being loved, cherished and are genuinely safe, they don’t really feel it all the time.
Or maybe because this time of the year reminds them of those they’ve lost. This is what has happened to me sometimes; when I’ve felt those Holiday Blues.
I love Christmas. It is my favorite time of the year; my favorite holiday. It’s not about gifts, shopping, all the food and the “commercial” side to the Holiday. To me, it’s always been about family – more so since I moved away from my Mom, family and friends many years ago. And in a more spiritual sense, to me it is also about what Christmas really is to those of us who believe in Jesus and his birth. Regardless of your beliefs, Christmas can be a time of great joy, but also one of great sadness.
It can also be magical. It’s the time of the year where I think (and hope and pray) that people are kinder to one another. That people will go out of their way to help another person; to show a stranger kindness. It’s the time of the year when you reflect back on the past year and sometimes dwell on all the bad things that may have happened to you during that year, but hopefully you can also find the good things that happened too. No matter how small or insignificant they might have seemed at the time, when you add them up – did your year go better or worse than you thought?
I’d like to think it went better for me.
Most don’t know that but I have talked about what my “Christmas House” would be like. This is the sort of house (a Colonial) that when I think about the perfect Christmas, this is what I see in my head. It might be the fictional scene from a Christmas movie or tv show that I’ve seen when I was a child, or something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting, or really just what I’ve conjured in my active imagination but it’s always the scene that warms me. I often believed that it might exist in an New England town, snow all around and softly falling while inside people are smiling and laughing, sitting around talking in front of a blazing fire. The house decorated to the nines with beautiful Christmas decorations – inside and out. There’s no place for the crazy National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation house here – no matter how much I love a lot of lights. So…something like this:
Well, you get the picture…
And this is always how I pictured I might have a house when I was married with kids. Even though I know it’s not real. And we all know how that marriage thing went. So more importantly, it wasn’t exactly what happened in my life and that’s okay. The Christmases I remember as a child were perfect as they were – even the one where I lost my dad.
So while I love Christmastime, it’s also sort of a melancholy time for me sometimes as well. My dad (pictured below), passed away on December 27, 1977. Yes, two days after Christmas. Some might wonder how I can enjoy Christmas when it’s the time when we lost him. I wish I could tell you that I never get sad at Christmas or anytime of the year since that night, because I’m reminded all the time throughout the year that he’s gone. He has been gone a very long time – this Christmas it will be 38 years. And yet sometimes it seems like just yesterday.
I don’t have all the answers on this topic but what gets me through it is remembering. Remembering the wonderful Christmases we did have with him, though not enough by any stretch of the imagination. But we had them, and they were great.
From decorating the house I grew up in, complete with fake snow on the windows to my dad getting on a suit and tie to go to Midnight mass with my Aunt, Uncle and cousins, to me falling asleep in the living room at my Aunt’s while the adults talked into the early morning hours. And then there’s the one gift I remember receiving above them all – a stuffed animal lion that my parents gave to me the Christmas of 1977. Yes, that Christmas. And I still have that lion. Sure, he’s a little worn now but I wouldn’t give it up for a new iPhone, 64″ flat screen tv or all the free music I could download. Those are just things. Nothing I really need or necessary want. But that lion? He represents the one tangible reminder I have of my dad – from the time when we lost him.
And it’s those memories that get me through those times when the sadness of him not being there with us overwhelms me. Part of me believes that in some way maybe he is actually with us always; our angel looking over us.
That’s what I choose to believe.
But as I stated earlier, there are those out there that haven’t been as lucky as I have been. Who still struggle all the time in dealing with the shit that life throws at us, and no matter how strong they might be, they feel helpless to win the battle.
I don’t have all the answers on how to beat the Holiday Blues. I don’t even know if anything I’m writing here will help. But I want to hope and pray that if this post helps even one person to feel even a bit more better than they did before they read this, then all my babbling has been a good thing.
As with my previously-touched upon topic of over-eating during the holidays, here are some other things that affect people’s emotions during the holidays that can lead to the Holiday Blues:
- The shortness of the days due to Daylight Savings Time (applicable to those places that actually engage in this). Nothing says, I need to curl up under the covers in bed and hibernate till Spring than it getting dark at 4:30pm. Winter, for some, brings on a closed-in feeling and in turn, causes people to get into a funk.
- As with over-eating, this is also the time where perhaps over-indulging in alcohol – and yes that includes the disgusting eggnog – only fuels to the Holiday Blues. As my mother said to me only yesterday, drinking may only make you feel better for a short time but it wears off. You don’t even want to know how that conversation came about between her and me – who doesn’t even really drink alcohol at all) but you can get that it was meant as a lesson in temporary hiding of feels and ergo, is not a good solution. Especially if you already have a history of depression – adding fuel to the fire is not a good way to beat that particular demon back.
- Over-scheduling your life. Do you do this? Do you try to jam-pack a month’s worth of activities and “things to do” in a week’s time period? Worse, do you procrastinate and leave everything until the last minute – from Christmas shopping till December 24th to trying to defrost that 25 pound turkey at 3:00am Christmas morning? Maybe you don’t want to be anti-social so you pencil yourself in to attend every party and function you’re invited to, some of which you’re expected to bring a gift or a dish-to-pass. And I’m only really thinking about this from the perspective of a single person. Imagine if you have kids!
- As with my “Christmas House”, there is really no such thing as the sense of family you get from watching It’s A Wonderful Life. While some people are lonely and miss their families during the holidays, there are those who would give their right eye for that It’s A Wonderful Life family, but alas, it’s just not possible. So they fret and worry about dealing with seeing their family members during the holidays. Maybe you have that crazy mother-in-law that some people see as the devil incarnate. Or maybe you have that drunkard Uncle Bob whose idea of family time is showing up as a drunk Santa and proceeding to pee on the tree (and I hope none of you have one of those Uncle Bobs). The idea of spending time with family that you can barely tolerate really is just another recipe for a bluesy holiday.
- Aside from over-scheduling your life, putting too much pressure on yourself is a big no-no. Are you the kind of person who feels they have to do everything or it won’t get done properly? Or maybe you’re one of those people who everyone else expects you to be that person who does everything and you can’t say “no”. Or something even more effective like “fuck off”. I don’t have a lot to do regarding Christmas festivities, holiday shopping or whatnot but I do put a lot of pressure on myself as the holidays get closer by trying to get as much work at my job done before the holidays hit. The problem is that I’m usually far behind anyway and stressing over that, but for some reason I then feel the need to turn it up a notch (or two) and try to do ever more work in even less time. It’s madness, I tell you!
I could go on and on with this list but you get the picture. I think are perhaps some of the more common causes for having the Holiday Blues. But I’ll be honest, some of the bigger concerns I have are for the people suffering from the Holiday Blues because they have nothing or no one to spend that time with. I can’t tell you the number of times I thought what a good idea it would be to go out during the holidays and help those less fortunate. Sure, I give money at the Salvation Army Kettle every year, and donate some cans to the food pantry (and I’ve even ran a can collection campaign in my office building for the food pantry), or even donated to Toys for Tots.
But what I am talking about is doing the “one-better”, Pay-it-Forward type of thing, like taking warm blankets, coats and winter attire to the homeless. Offering to buy them a warm meal. Or even inviting them into your home so they have people to spend the holiday with. Or what about those elderly people who are in nursing homes and have no family to visit them or to take them home for the holidays.
It saddens me that there are people out there who don’t know even a bit of what happiness and joy I have in my life, even if there are moments of sadness and those dreaded Holiday Blues. Because most times for me, they are just that – moments.
But for now, here are some things that you can do to beat those Holiday Blues.
- Try to get outside during the day, even if it’s a tad nippy, to get some fresh air and hopefully some sunlight. Absorb as much of it as you can during the day so the evenings when it’s darker so dreadfully soon have less of an affect.
- Control your eating and drinking. Don’t do anything because of how you feel. Don’t let your emotions dictate if your gorging yourself on pies and pastries or drinking that four glass of wine. In the end you’ll regret it and that only adds to your blues. The key is: Moderation
- Hand-in-hand go the over-scheduling yourself and trying to do everything yourself. If you can, delegate and for Pete’s sake, accept what they’ve done to help you. If half the cookies are burnt because Jimmy forgot they were in the oven, then accept it and move on. Even laugh at it if you can. As well, don’t put off everything until the last minute. Make a list of everything you feel you need to do. Then look over the list. REALLY look over the list. Is everything listed absolutely necessary to do? Do you really have to go to Aunt Edith’s and cut her toenails? If you can scrub anything from the list that can be determined to be unnecessary, then do that. Then prioritize what you have left. Assign date/times for getting them done, for example, buying the turkey for Christmas dinner – why not get a frozen one two weeks early and then pull it out on the 23rd or 24th. Do you really need to be in the grocery store with all of the other procrastinators on Christmas Eve? Those workers have families too, you know?
Plan. Plan. Plan.
- Face it, there isn’t much you can do about your family members and how they behave. And maybe Prozac or Xanax isn’t the solution either. But what you can do – what you can control – is how much you let them GET to you.
In all seriousness, I know that some families are just toxic and if you can’t get away from them, I hope this link will help you to at least at little bit in dealing with them:
Here is also a short, but concise list of things that you might want to try to help you beat the Holiday Blues. Maybe there’s something you haven’t tried yet – don’t be afraid – give it a go:
- Let the sadness in, cry it out and then tell it to fuck off.
- Meditate, pray and/or take a nap (a short nap, not a five-day one)
- Get some exercise.
- Take the time to do something fun you like to do; maybe a hobby or reading
- Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while and reconnect (not via social media if you can help it).
- Take that fresh air break and just take in the beautiful Mother Earth. Appreciate what your eyes see and that you are able to see it.
- Make a list of the good things in your life; things you appreciate. Concentrate on those, not the negatives.
- Get together with a friend and see a movie, make a meal together or just sit and talk
- Go and visit other people’s blogs that might interest you and leave them compliments. This is one I know I appreciate but please do come back to me. 🙂
- Pamper yourself. Do something FOR you that you normally wouldn’t do. Take a bath instead of a shower. Buy something that means something to you – maybe from an antique shop that reminds you of something or someone.
And lastly, maybe the one thing above all else that will make you less affected by the Holiday Blues is if you recognize the wonderful things you have in your life, and you go out and do one selfless thing for someone else.
Do Unto Others.
So I challenge each and every one of you to do just that. Do a 2015 Beat-The-Blues-Pay-It-Forward thing. Doesn’t matter what it is. Doesn’t matter how small it may seem. Maybe that compliment you give to someone is the first one they’ve ever heard. Maybe that smile you offer to a stranger who looks like they need it will make them have a better day.
I’m not limiting this to what you do, or how many times you do this. One is the minimum. But obviously, if you can make a greater impact on someone’s life who might need a hot meal more than another person who is buying their 10th Dunkaccino that week, then by all means, please do that – please offer the person a hot meal. While it’s a kind gesture to pay for the coffee of the person behind you, unless you have some idea that they really can’t afford it, they likely can so move on to someone who might be more needier.
But this is your call.
So all I ask is that what you do for this challenge does have a greater impact. Make them count.
It’s not necessary that you share with me if you accepted the challenge and what you did but I would absolutely LOVE to hear them IF you wish to share them with me. I won’t name any names but I will acknowledge the acts of kindness in a special Challenge blog posting.
And if you’ve never shared my blog or if you have, I encourage you to share this one post and see if you can help someone else.
So as we get closer and closer to the Christmas holidays, I do hope that wherever you find yourself emotionally right now, that if I can help you feel even a bit better – whether it be by this blog or merely venting to me – please reach out to me. You’re never alone with me.
Sending many blessings and much love to everyone.