Posted by Mark Taliancich, Counseling Solutions Clinical Director| December 2017
Tips from a Counselor
The holiday season is once again upon us, with the brisk weather, warm drinks and all the Christmas cheer and anticipation we could desire. So why do so many of us feel so tired, so down? Whatever you call it – Holiday Blues, Holiday Exhaustion – many of us have a hard time taking care of ourselves over the holiday season and pay the price even long after the festivities have ended.
Make no mistake, while the holiday season can bring immense joy, many are also combatting holiday related stress, loneliness, anxiety and depression. So how do we feel better? How can we effectively deal with these negative and uncomfortable emotions during what feels like it should be a happy time?
The first step – and possibly the most important – is to understand that this is completely normal. None of us is alone in feeling stressed over the responsibilities of the holiday season, the anxiety that comes from knowing you must deal with difficult family members, the loneliness of missing loved ones or any other number of stresses or factors that lead to negative emotions.
Ways to Combat Holiday Stress
The American Psychological Association conducted research on holiday stress and found that over 1 in 3 people experience an increase in stress during the holiday season. While the individuals interviewed expressed that they experienced high levels of happiness, love and high spirits, most of them also reported feelings of fatigue, stress and irritability.
Normal or not, experiencing stress, anxiety and depression is miserable. No one wants to spend more time feeling down than is necessary. Knowing this, how can we get back to a place where we enjoy the holidays?
They key to enjoying the holidays (not just surviving them) starts with caring for yourself. Take time to identify how you’re feeling and give yourself what you need to feel better. Some ideas for self-care are:
- Take time for yourself, but be sure not to become isolated.
- Make sure you’re getting enough rest.
- Reach out to others. Seek out social, community, religious or volunteer opportunities to stay connected.
- Keep your expectations realistic. Families and traditions change and grow. Choose what to keep from year to year and let new traditions develop.
- Learn to say no. Don’t put yourself in a situation that leaves you feeling resentful or overwhelmed.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members as they are and wait until another time to air grievances.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Despite all of these strategies, you may continue to feel sad or anxious or experience any number of other negative emotions. If they do not go away, reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional.
If you are experiencing these feelings and have been unable to shake the holiday blues, there are resources available to provide treatment and support. Individual counseling services are available for individuals, couples and families through programs such as Counseling Solutions of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. Other supports can be located by dialing 211 and speaking with a Via-Link care manager who will identify your needs and refer you to the appropriate services.
In extreme situations, if you feel that you or your family members are in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, call 911 or go to the emergency room for appropriate evaluation and treatment.
The holidays can be a difficult time of year, filled with joy, but also stress and anxiety. With some attention and a little self-care, the holiday season can once again be a time to relish and appreciate.