Let me get right to it! The first thing you need to understand is that the change in the seasons (in small ways) affect your mood— it has something to do with shorter days and longer nights they say. Alright, add to the gloom of the winter months the fact that the days are generally cloudier from Thanksgiving to New Years, our longest holiday season of the year. Although experts suggest that it is inconclusive about the weather’s effect on our mood, there seems to be a consensus that warm climates and sunny days have positive effects on well-being.
Now, consider cloudy days and exaggerated expectations associated with the holidays and you may have a stew of emotions that will make it near-impossible getting through the month-and-a-half of eating, drinking, being merry and, of course, shopping. So, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed from latter-November to early-January. And while it may not help you much to know that “you are not alone,” having a plan for getting through it might help, so consider the following for weathering the holiday bluz.
But, first, consider the symptoms and risk listed just below.
Symptoms of Holiday Blues
As you consider the list of symptoms, think about your behavior during this time of the year. What are you doing that may be contributing to the bluz—my word for feelings of anxiety or perhaps sadness? Only you know for sure. So when you wake up in the middle of the night, ask yourself since you are awake anyway, “Why am I awake?” “What is going on in my life that needs my attention?”
“What’s worrying me?” “Was it something I ate/drank?” “Was it something I did or didn’t/can’t do?” Just have this conversation with yourself until you put yourself back to sleep. Make this a sincere conversation because you cannot fool yourself and you most certainly can’t fool your body, which is why you are awake at 3 o’clock in the morning (ala B.B. “King of the Bluz”). So, indulge yourself in this chat.
During regular waking hours, notice if you have more headaches than usual. Or, note if you are perhaps drinking more and more often. What (if anything) has changed about eating habits? Most likely the breakroom at work has more cookies, cakes, and chips and dips than usual, so get a plan for how much you are going to succumb to your craving for these delights. I have a long list of my favorites and saying “enough” is just plain hard. If you can identify with me then get a plan on how you are going to approach holiday eating before and after the holidays.
Oh, me? I begin disciplining myself before Thanksgiving by lowering my caloric intake and being consistent with my current exercise regiments. My thinking is that should I have too many chocolate chips or refrigerator cookies (my absolute favorite) I will have established a habit of eating less and exercising to balance whatever overeating I may do during the holidays. But, figure out what works for you.
Risk Factors for Holiday Blues
The first two risk factors, I believe are connected. Let’s face it, any one of your social circles, family, work, community, faith-community, sorority/fraternity, and other networking, civic and political community to which you belong will be having holiday gatherings that will require your financial participation—whether for a charity fundraiser or Secret Santa gift-giving. This is stressful especially if you have not saved extra for gift-giving or you just don’t have the funds, period. Or if you can’t give what you really want to give. Or worse, if you concern yourself with giving to impress others this is added stress for you. Stress during this time is often connected with the expectation giving and spending.
Finally, loneliness and grief may also be of kin. Being alone for some may be more difficult to endure when it appears that the world with all of its joyfulness is mocking you (for being alone). But then add to your being “alone” of having the holidays remind you of a loved one who had died. Everyone is at the family gathering but him or her. So you are grieving at least 2-losses: begin reminded of the loss of a loved one and not having a special significant other with whom to create new memories. So what do you do?
Now, at the risk of being trite or minimizing your experience, I am not going to offer you any cliché advice accept—seek help from a professional. Honestly, talking this through may be all you need to do. I can remember one holiday, I was out of town, a male client found me online, gave me a call, we talked for about 45-minutes to an hour and I never heard from him again. My deduction was that he just needed to talk, so I did. So, this is probably good advice for us all. You might want to start looking now for a professional right now with whom to consult.
Okay, the good news here is that therapists are everywhere. And the better news is you are listening to one of the best! Happy Holidays! And the even better news is that ChatOwl.com is offering FREE 20-minute-sessions through the holidays. Use this link to connect with a therapist: https://chatowl.com