How to Beat the Holidays Blues
It’s the holidays; a time when everyone is merry and celebrating time with family and friends. It should be a time of joy and laughter. And it often is…but sometimes the holidays can bring unwelcome guests: stress and depression. And it's no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of activities - parties, shopping and entertaining, to name just a few. If you’re dealing with a separation, a deployment or TDY, or the loss of a loved one it just feels that much worse. You may feel that by feeling down you are out of step with the entire world. You may look around you and think everyone is so happy. What’s wrong with me? The truth is, many people are going through the exact same thing. So, if all of the holiday cheer gets you down there are things you can do to feel better:
1. Recognize your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season. Even if your family and friends are with you, it’s OK to feel sad, just acknowledge those feelings and take the time to talk things through with loved ones, it may help you feel better.
2. Reach out to others, don’t isolate. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Besides, they might need the connection too!
3. Lean on your friends and family. If you’ve been depressed, you need a network of close friends and family to turn to when things get tough. Especially during the holidays when there are so many expectations, take the time to touch base with your circle of support.
4. Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect. We don’t all live in a Hallmark card or a Norman Rockwell painting. Find ways that work for you to celebrate; especially if finances are an issue, remaining within a budget will save you the financial stress and headaches post-holiday.
5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with a ton of gifts, buyer’s remorse and financial strain will probably be the only reward after an ill-advises shopping spree.
6. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and family will understand if you can't participate in every event or activity.
7. Keep those healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Continue to monitor your eating habits, get plenty of sleep, continue to exercise and watch your alcohol consumption.
8. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. The holidays often mean being around a lot of people. Just spending a little time alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Consider taking a walk, listening to music, reading a book or taking a refreshing power-nap.
9. Consider talking to a professional. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, with difficulty sleeping, over or under eating, increased irritability and a sense of hopeless. If these feelings last for a few weeks or more, or if they start to interfere significantly with your life, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. Military One Source is a great resource for finding the help that you need.
10. If you are thinking about Suicide: If your feelings of sadness during the holidays are accompanied by suicidal thoughts, call 911, immediately proceed to a hospital emergency room, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).