Bah! Humbug! Beating the Holiday Blues

by Terry Cahill

Bob Cratchit sheepishly asking old Scrooge for just another lump of coal to heat the office seems a scene from a bygone era. Many U.S. employers now provide healthcare, disability and life insurance, as well as retirement and even wellness benefits.  And heated offices.  And yet many of us are not able to muster the holiday spirit that Bob did.  Why is that?

Many factors, including unrealistic expectations, financial pressures, and excessive commitments can cause stress and anxiety at holiday time. Certain people may feel anxious or depressed around the winter holidays due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a condition that seems to develop from inadequate exposure to bright light during the winter months. Studies show that bright light changes the chemicals in the brain. Exactly how this occurs and the details of its effects are being studied.

Regardless of further study of SAD, many people experience some level of the “holiday blues”. Maybe a closer look at Bob Cratchit can shed some light on how to approach the season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s.  Here are some keys to beating the holiday blues:

  1. Let go of excessive expectations. We often want to find (and receive) the perfect gifts for everyone or plan the perfect meal. Bob was stressed about what he could afford for his family. But Bob’s expectations for the holidays were not excessive. He didn’t picture a holiday like that prepared at Mansion House by the Lord Mayor’s 50 cooks and butlers. Even if Scrooge hadn’t come through with the turkey, Bob knew that his most precious gift was time to be with his family. Know what your most precious gift for the season is and focus on that.
  2. Limit Social Media consumption. Maybe it was easier for Bob to not focus on what he didn’t have. Per Sarah Elizabeth Richards’ Four Simple Steps to Beating the Holiday Blues featured on CNN Health, “Don’t Look at Facebook. Even though you know that most people only post their happiest moments on social media, it’s easy to lose perspective and get a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out).”
  3. Build in some time for yourself. Here’s where we may have something over Bob. Technology can also lend itself to developing self-care by bringing mindfulness and mediation apps directly to our devices. Headspace is one example, but there are many others. Even 15 minutes a day to slow down and breathe can be a significant stress reliever.
  4. Avoid isolation. If you’re down, withdrawing can further exacerbate feelings of loneliness over the holidays. Reach out to friends or family for support. Or, if you’re like Bob, keep an eye out for the loner and invite him for a holiday dinner or event. He or she may be a real scrooge, but being included by you may just help turn around a terrible case of the holiday blues.

Sometimes, it’s easier said than done. If you need help beating the holiday blues or seasonal affective disorder, call your EAP and speak to a counselor today!

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  • Mark Smith

    This is a great article.