" I'll have a blue Christmas without you. I'll be so blue just thinking about you. Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree Won't be the same dear, if you're not here with me. And when those blue snowflakes start falling That's when those blue memories start calling..." Elvis Presley
The holiday season is not a time when all our days are "merry and bright." Some of us have lost a person we are close to - maybe loved dearly. There may be divisions in our family. We simply cannot afford all the things we are expected to spend money on during Christmas. Gift giving is stressful. So are social gatherings. Work may have increased demands. There's not much sunlight, and that affects our mood. Maybe we just feel isolated, lonely.
According to the American Psychological Association (Nov 24, 2023), 38% of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.
McLeanHospital.org has published McLean's Guide to Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays. They’ve identified six common issues that come up this time of year, as well as suggestions for ways to address them.
You're lacking the "Holiday Spirit." There is a lot of pressure to be cheerful and social during the holiday season. You may be an introvert, or you may have painful memories surrounding a specific event. Maybe your religious or spiritual traditions don't match those surrounding you. What can you do? Spend more time with people who are like you! Don't feel like you have to participate in everything. And limit the drink - that just makes the feelings worse.
If you are dealing with loss or grief, don't force yourself to celebrate. Friends and family understand. Let your loved ones know how they can support you. Remind yourself that as circumstances change, traditions will change as well, but it takes time.
You may feel pressured to participate in holiday activities, but you want no part of them. Did you read John Grisham's novel Skipping Christmas? or see the movie it became, Christmas with the Kranks? The Kranks decide Christmas is too overwhelming, so they'll spend a couple of weeks in the Caribbean instead. Nah, it didn't work out. But don't be afraid to say No. You don't need to do everything. You don't even need to do anything.
McLean's goes on to suggest that you might outline a plan and communicate it to your friends and family. You could make a schedule of when you will do your shopping, baking, and cleaning. Be sure to schedule time to take care of yourself, to exercise and do activities you enjoy.
You may be stressed about gift giving. Christmas has become a huge commercial event! Constant ads. Must-have toys for children. Look at your budget and determine what you can comfortably spend, and stick to it! You might set up gift exchanges instead of buying for everyone. Or give the gift of your time, time that can be spent doing something together that you both enjoy. The gift of time can be especially valuable when you are looking for gift ideas to or from children.
There's not much sunlight here in December, and it affects your mood. 6% of the population suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Most of us aren't happy about the fact that we either go to work when it's still dark, or we come home when it's dark. We can't tilt the earth, but maybe we can go for a walk at noon. We can try to sit near windows or have brighter lights in our homes or work spaces. There is a reason we put lights on our trees and houses.
Because our society has become so much more mobile, many of us feel alone or isolated. These feelings are stronger during the holiday season because it's a time of family and of memories. But now it is much easier to do things like video calls. It costs very little to stay connected, even with people somewhere else in the world.
For many people, the holidays are a time to look forward to. However, this isn’t the case for everyone. For some people, the holidays can be an emotionally exhausting and difficult time. As Elvis reminds us, "You'll be doing all right with your Christmas of white, But I'll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas."