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Tips on how to cope with holiday season downers

(Source: Pexels)
(Source: Pexels)

Thanksgiving is in our rear view mirror and the holiday season is in full swing. But what’s been touted for ages as the most joyous time of the year isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be for many people. While Santa brings smiles to children’s faces, he delivers a lump of coal to many adults — in different forms.

The holidays can stir our emotions, sometimes sinking us into depression or winding us up with anxiety. I’ve experienced my share of the holiday blues before, and I’m here to say there are things we can do to mitigate the sour moments and make the holidays a sweeter occasion.

Here are five tips that could help you steer clear of holiday season gloom.

  1. Keep Christmas in perspective. Christmas is the biggest — and most celebrated — holiday  in America. Let’s be honest, it’s more consumer driven than holy as evidenced by the emphasis on shopping and advertisements. People are running to malls, not the church. Before you do or commit to anything this season, ask yourself what it means to you and what you want the holiday season to do for you — or you for it!
  2. Think beyond yourself and your family. What can you do for someone in need to lift them or your community up? Christmas can be a downer for many people who are struggling to make ends meet or are enduring the season without loved ones. Studies show we feel good when we do good for the benefit of others. Spreading kindness also doesn’t cost a thing. It’s a win-win that shouldn’t be overlooked and has a positive impact any time of the year, but especially the season often portrayed as the happiest for everyone.
  3. Stay in your budget. If you are compelled to spend, make sure you do not overextend yourself. Make your dollar stretch, and don’t feel pressured to prove anything. It’s tempting to try to go all out so that our children and spouses can show off to their peers or family members. Think back, did you love your parents more because of the bounty of gifts they unloaded on you Christmas Day? If you’re mature, the answer is likely a hard “no.” In fact, if you’re like me, money may have been scarce at times during childhood and you didn’t love your parents any less for what you may not have received for Christmas. It’s also possible that right now you are not in the best position yourself this year to turn Christmas for the family into an episode of the Price is Right. Don’t be afraid to get creative if you’re low on funds this holiday season, your kids won’t love you any less, and your partner shouldn’t either.
  4. Be careful who’s in your company. One of the most dreaded aspects of the holiday season can be dinner with the family. While we typically love our families, it’s not unheard of to deal with bad blood. Mentally prepare for these events and be honest with yourself in the moment: “Can I handle hostility or dysfunction of this year?” “Will I finally snap this Christmas?” We all have our reasons for sometimes wanting to avoid toxic family members. The feelings of animosity are enough to bare, but shame for not inviting them to your house or you skipping dinner with them should not be in your emotional vocabulary. Do not feel bad for avoiding problematic family members at holiday functions, especially if you want to preserve your peace of mind. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with finding other activities on Christmas Day. Catch a movie, go to a ski resort, or out sightseeing… perhaps even stay home and host a friends-only dinner. There will be other Christmas dinners down the line. Your family — at least those you let in — should understand. Odds are, they’ve been in your shoes before, even if they never acted on their desires to avoid family. Don’t tempt fate and make your holiday dinner memorable for the wrong reasons.
  5. Express gratitude with every given opportunity. I can’t overstate how critical it is for our mental health and well-being to stop and give thanks for who we have in our lives that we appreciate and what we have. Even when we are bogged down with stress and the occasional misfortunes — because life isn’t perfect — there is usually something to give thanks for. If you’re not one for sentimental words, just picking up the phone and telling a loved one you were thinking about them can be a tremendous lift to their spirits during the holiday season. Life is short, and we never know when our time with our loved ones could be up. Live and love with less regret by showing someone that you care, and give thanks for what you have. Chances are, you’re doing better in life than someone else — and have more to be grateful for than you realize.

This holiday season, I intend to employ my own advice, not just dispense it. We all could use a reminder to be on guard with our emotions during this season. Holidays can be tricky, but they don’t have to be a let down. It’s been said before, the best things in life are free, and in my opinion, that includes our ability to make the most out of an undesirable situation.

Stay blessed!

Note: I am not a licensed mental health professional and my advice is not a substitute for the treatment or guidance of a licensed mental health professional. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or thinking about harming their self, please reach out immediately to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988lifeline.org or by dialing 988.