Part one of this four part series on how to cope with the holiday blues provided a definition of the holiday blues and coping strategies for the emotional aspect of your life. Part two provided coping strategies in the social and family areas of your life. Part three provided coping strategies for physical and financial stress relief. Part four reviews the definition of holiday blues and compares it with depression. The series closes with options for getting help.
What is the holiday blues?
The holiday blues is feelings of disappointment, sadness, stress and being overwhelmed related to holiday experiences. These feelings are triggered at this time of the year when longing for loved ones increases, when yearning for the way things use to be increases, when unrealistic expectations take over, when isolation from family and friends seems like a good coping strategy, and when the pressure to feel merry becomes too much.
How can I help someone with the holiday blues?
- Invite them to do things with you. Shopping, cooking, running errands, raking leaves, having dinner with your family. No matter the activity or event the idea is to keep the person engaged, and feeling needed and appreciated. The goal is to deter isolation.
- Help them prepare for holiday events/activities. Shopping, cooking, running errands, raking leaves, all things that are easier and better when done with a friend. Your help can help alleviate the feeling of being overwhelmed, and the sense of loneliness.
- Listen. Sometimes relief from sadness is as simple as a caring person who listens and validates the speaker’s feelings. An opportunity to unburden oneself can be priceless. Remember, listening means being in the moment with the person talking. Listening is not thinking of how you’re going to respond. Listening is not figuring out how you’re going to “fix it” for the other person.
- Share your story/feelings. Empathy goes a long way to help someone feel validated and supported. Sharing your story of holiday blues and how you coped may encourage someone to unburden themselves and feel safe doing so. Sharing your story of holiday cheer may give someone hope that they too may have similar experiences.
- Share coping strategies. Provide a copy of this four part series with others. Add to these coping strategies the unique ways in which you have overcome the holiday blues.
Is it more than the holiday blues?
How can I know if what I’m experiencing is more than the holiday blues? The holiday blues are predictable in that a person knows that they typically feel down during the holiday season. The sadness, loneliness and other negative feelings dissipate as the holiday season passes. Depression on the other hand is persistent, that is to say the negative symptoms do not dissipate with the passing of the holiday season but persist well beyond. To others the symptoms may seem to have come on suddenly, but in reality the symptoms have been gathering and deepening over some time. The feelings of sadness, lost of interests, lack of energy, etc. are not typical of the person experiencing them. Physical complaints such as aches, pains, stiffness, or soreness may arise without a clear physical cause. Thoughts or verbalization of suicide may be present.
If you or someone you know makes suicidal statements, even those that seem benign or harmless, immediately go for a professional evaluation. Hospital emergency rooms, community mental health centers, and private mental health facilities all provide suicide screenings, generally free of charge and without an appointment.
Life coach. A life coach may be appropriate for someone experiencing the holiday blues. The life coach will provide perspective, help the person gain an understanding of realistic expectations, develop a plan to use coping skills and provide non-judgmental support during the holiday season. Consult the directory provided by the International Coach Federation to locate a coach in your area. http://www.coachfederation.org/clients/crs/
Therapist. A licensed therapist may be appropriate for someone experiencing more long-term depression not associated with the holiday season. The therapist will spend time helping you uncover the causes of your depression. The therapist will also help you identity strengths you have to combat the depression as well as discovering new skills to get you healthy and keep you healthy. You can locate a licensed therapist by consulting your states Secretary of State Professional Licensing Board.
Psychiatrist. A medical doctor may be appropriate for someone experiencing long-term, chronic depression. Psychiatrists provide diagnosis and medication consultations and evaluations. If deemed appropriate the psychiatrist will prescribe anti-depressants to help alleviate depressive symptoms. The psychiatrist will monitor you over time for medication effectiveness and side effects. Sometimes immediate symptom relief is needed in order for other forms of help (therapy) to be effective. You can locate psychiatrists by consulting your state’s medical licensing boards.
The holidays are meant to be a time of joy, spiritual renewal, togetherness and fun. Often times the pressure to have these experiences overshadows the season and results in the holiday blues. You don’t have to succumb to feelings of sadness, worry and overwhelm. Use as many of the coping strategies provided in this series that are right for you. Choose to have a wonderful holiday season.
Tonia M. Richardson, DM, LPC
Lotus Solutions: A Coaching Enterprise provides leadership and life coaching beneficial to most anyone but with special focus on the African-American experience. Visit the website for more information and to schedule a free 30 minute phone consultation.