As many of us are preparing to deck the halls with boughs of holly, we may not feel so fa la la la la, la la la la as our friends and family may expect during the holiday season.
“While the holidays are a time to celebrate, they can also heighten stress, anxiety, loneliness, as well as other emotions and memories that make us feel sad,” said Marilyn Montgomery, Ph.D., an associate professor in the clinical mental health counseling program at Northwest Christian University and a nationally certified counselor. “These holiday emotions are not uncommon for many of us to experience, but there are some easy ways to work with those difficult feelings.”
Based on decades of professional experience, Dr. Montgomery offers five ways to turn the volume down on the holiday blues while you shop, travel, spend time with family, attend parties and events, and work:
- Give yourself the same advice you would give your best friend. Be understanding with yourself; it is OK to feel sad or anxious during the holiday season. But do something different. Go for a short walk, go for a drive to look at the Christmas lights, go out for coffee—and change the scenery!
- Take a vacation from social media or limit yourself to 30-minutes and then go live a life! Remember everyone uses social media to put up their “best” which can lead to unrealistic social comparison.
- Stay informed, but do not dwell on negative news and keep the news away from young children. Negative news can make us feel helpless, so find one good thing you can do to change those feelings, such as volunteering for an hour or give a donation to your favorite charity or a special collection at church. Change helpless feelings by doing something good for someone.
- Help someone else who might be struggling during the holidays. Send a friend or colleague a friendly e-mail, letter or text thanking them for what they do or simply letting them know that you are thinking of them. Expressing gratitude can be a powerful anecdote to throwing the holiday blues off key.
- Hunt for zest in life. Celebrate the little things. Remember the micro-celebrations the holidays bring to all of us. Whether it is the smell of freshly baked bread, a warm bed, hot water, or a child’s excitement, be present with people and your surroundings.
“These tips also apply after the holidays or really any time of the year,” said Montgomery, who is a supervisor for NCU’s Community Mental Health Counseling Clinic (541-349-7470). “If sadness becomes unmanageable seek the support of a mental health professional for additional counsel and support.”