The Christmas and New Year’s holiday is supposed to be a time of peace, joy and love. Yet, more and more people find it to be an extremely stressful anxious and even dreaded time instead. The advertisements and movies all show loving happy families, a house fully trimmed out with the nicest decorations imaginable and a mountain of gifts under the tree. The reality is that there are very few people who experience a Christmas that lives up to this vision.
In fact, for many, the added financial burden of decorations, gifts and even the holiday dinner pushes their limits to cope. Perhaps already stretched to cope with regular day to day expenses, the mere thought of how to also finance this year’s Christmas brings tears and a sense of hopelessness. The thought of disappointing others, especially your children, is overwhelming.
For others, the holiday blues are triggered knowing there is the traditional family get-together coming up. That time of peace and love that is actually bickering, arguing and dragging up the past. A time when adults often revert back to childish behavior and roles, particularly when the gathering is at the parents’ or family home. There is jealousy, old wounds that haven’t been allowed to heal, guilt and a sense of obligation. Bringing your partner into the fray makes you anxious and worried.
For people without partners, the holidays often amplify the sense of being alone because there is so much focus on the family unit in the media, marketing and movies. This often leads to increased feelings of loneliness futility or hopelessness for those desperately wanting a relationship. Recent widows and widowers, relive their lost loved ones through flashbacks to holidays when their partners were still with them.
So, how do we create a season of good tidings and joy for ourselves? One of the most effective strategies is to start with changing your focus from looking at what you don’t have or can’t have and implementing a gratitude perspective instead. Pause for a moment right now and identify three things you are grateful for, no matter how big or how small. And, yes, you can find three things so look around physically, look in the mirror, look at your social or work network. I am grateful for my freckles now even though I didn’t appreciate them when I was younger. They add to my uniqueness. I am grateful for being able to write. I am grateful for the clerk at the fruit stand down the street for her cheerfulness. Commit to identifying three things you are grateful for every night before you fall asleep and see how this helps shift the holiday blues.
A second strategy for shifting your mood is to set an intention for being each morning when you wake up. Before getting out of bed, decide and choose how you want to be today. By choosing how you want to be or show up for the day, you create an intention that impacts everything you do that day. For example, you may choose to see the worst the season has to offer and be blue. Or, you can choose to be calm today and let things roll off rather than stick to you. You can also choose to be joyful and notice acts of joy throughout the day. And, by the way, choosing not to choose is also a choice.
These two simple techniques can be extremely effective in shifting a person’s mood. Sometimes, additional tools and support is required. Support groups and counseling for anxiety, financial management, depression and family dynamics are also often helpful. The psychologists at Centre for Human Potential offer support and strategies to help you manage and move forward. Referrals are not required to see a psychologist. However, Medicare may cover some or all of the cost of your psychologist visit. For further information, please visit our website.
Lisa Kunde has ten years experience working as a psychologist with adults in both private and public hospital settings (oncology, palliative care, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary, psychiatric and alcohol and other drugs units).