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How to Enjoy the Holiday Season When You are Struggling with the Holiday Blues

How do you gear up for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other winter holidays? For many of us, that means twinkling lights, festive reds and greens, hot cocoa with marshmallows, and music that makes us want to dance in the snow. But for some, it can also bring feelings of dread instead of joy—especially if you struggle with "the holiday blues."

If you are one of those people who isn’t feeling merry and bright this time of year, don't worry. This blog will provide tips so you can enjoy the holiday season even if you're feeling down.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

The first step to overcoming the holiday blues is recognizing and accepting them. Whether you're feeling lonely, overwhelmed, or just not in the holiday spirit—it's okay. It is normal to feel these things during the holidays because of our society's expectations of jolly feelings.

That's why you should acknowledge and accept your feelings rather than try to ignore them. Doing so will help you move past them and enjoy the holiday season. Talk to a friend, family member, or mental health professional about your feelings to help you express them in a safe environment and let go of any negative feelings.

But if it's harder than usual to shake off these emotions this year, that's okay, too. The pandemic has caused many of us to have lingering feelings of isolation, anxiety, and loneliness. So give yourself some grace this holiday season, and don't be too hard on yourself if you're not feeling the traditional holiday joy.

Make a Plan and Stick to It

One way to start managing the holiday blues is to create a plan and stick with it. Map out some activities that delight you, and do them throughout the season. It could be baking cookies, ice skating, or just taking a long walk outside—whatever makes you feel happy and relaxed.

Also, think about ways to make the holidays special despite being apart from friends and family. For example, you could set up a video call with them during festive meals, or create a virtual gift exchange. You could also join a local charity organization and volunteer your time to give back and stay connected with the community.

If something goes out of plan, don't beat yourself up. We are all dealing with different circumstances this year, so it's okay to adapt and make changes. No matter what, take the time to do something good for yourself and savor the little moments.

Create Healthy Routines

With the holiday season comes many routine changes, from extra shopping trips to late nights partying. But it's important to establish healthy routines that will keep you grounded and prevent the holiday blues from taking over.

Start by getting enough sleep, exercising, eating nutritious meals, and limiting alcohol consumption. Healthy habits like these will help you stay on track and prevent worsening any feelings of depression or anxiety during this time of year.

You should also find ways to de-stress and relax. Go for a massage, do yoga, meditate, listen to music, or practice any other calming activity you enjoy. Doing these things will help you stay centered, clear your head, and keep your mental health in check.

Finally, remember to practice self-care. Spend time with people who make you feel loved and accepted, take a break from social media, do something creative, and permit yourself to do what you need to feel your best.

Surround Yourself with People You Love

Getting together with family and friends is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the holiday season. Even if you can't be together in person due to pandemic restrictions, reach out virtually—it will still help you feel connected.

Consider these ideas to stay connected with your loved ones:

  • Send cards and gifts to show that you care
  • Have video calls and chats with your friends, family, or co-workers
  • Create social media groups dedicated to the holidays where you can connect with people who are also looking for companionship
  • Organize a virtual gathering with your friends or family members, and make it extra special with games and recipes
  • Arrange local community meet-ups for those who do not want to be alone this holiday season
  • Take part in a virtual event or activity that you and your friends or family can do together

If you can physically be with loved ones, make sure you make the most of it. Don't forget to take some time to talk, laugh, and share stories to create meaningful memories together. Plan a game night, take a walk in nature together, or engage in any other activity that will bring you closer.

No matter what you decide to do and what your set-up is, remember that the holidays are a time to connect with yourself and those you care about. After all, spending time with others and engaging in meaningful conversations can help us feel connected and supported.

Make Time to Reflect on the Year

The holidays can be a great time to reflect, reset and recharge. Hence, you can take advantage of the quiet, peaceful moments to spend some time thinking about the last year and how you want to greet the following one. 

Take this opportunity to reflect on the challenges, successes, failures, and hardships you've experienced over the past year. Revisit the lessons you've learned, the goals you've accomplished, and what you are most proud of. Perhaps there are unresolved issues you want to think about; write in a journal, practice visualization, or pray—whatever helps you examine your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

On the other hand, you can also take time to think about your plans for the future. You could list goals and resolutions you want to work on in the coming months. Think about what actions will help you stay motivated and focused so that you're ready to tackle your ambitions when the new year begins.

Seek Joy and Gratitude

Feeling grateful for the things we have is just as important as reflecting on the year. As you plan and celebrate the holidays, take time to pause and recognize what you appreciate in your life.

Think of the moments that made you smile, the people who have been there for you throughout the year, the small victories of everyday life, and the small things that bring you joy. Acknowledge these things and take pleasure in the little moments.

Practicing gratitude will help you stay positive and focus on the good. It is also a way to connect with your inner joy and express appreciation for the people and moments that make you happy. Ultimately, honing this habit will allow you to find comfort and peace during the holidays.

On that note, you can do the following to seek joy and gratitude this holiday season:

  • Spend time outdoors
  • Listen to your favorite music or a holiday classic
  • Make a gratitude list and write down the things you are thankful for
  • Create art that brings you joy
  • Go through old family photos or videos and reminisce
  • Play games or share stories with family and friends
  • Donate to a charity of your choice
  • Make someone else's day by sending a card, letter, or small gift
  • Volunteer your time at a local organization that needs help

Focus on What You Can Control

The holidays can be full of stress and expectations, especially with how hectic this year has been. Many of us may feel like we're running around trying to meet these expectations and please everyone, leading to more stress and less of a sense of control.

So, focus on what you can control, like self-care and setting boundaries. Make yourself a priority this season by taking time for self-care, such as getting enough rest, eating healthy foods, taking a bath or going for a walk, and engaging in activities you enjoy.

Setting clear boundaries with your family, friends, or co-workers is also essential. You don't have to say yes to every invitation or Christmas gift exchange if it's different from what you want or need this year. Be bold and tell people you can't (or don't want to) participate in something you don't want to do.

Go at Your Own Pace

There's no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays. You can take things at your own pace and in your own way. Hence, feel free to spend as much or as little time on the traditions and activities you want—you don't have to do them all.

If the holidays are usually a hectic time for you and your family, it's okay to slow down and do things differently this year. It could mean spending less time decorating, taking days off from work, or simply saying no to activities that don't bring you joy.

Moreover, you can look for activities that reduce stress and make the holidays feel more special, like hosting a virtual dinner, taking a road trip, or making homemade gifts for your family and friends.

You can also create traditions that work for you; it doesn't have to be the same as everyone else. You may want to meditate, bake a special holiday treat, or watch a favorite movie with your family. Or perhaps you want to attend a holiday concert or play, get a small group together and have a Secret Santa gift exchange, go caroling with friends or family, or make a gingerbread house with loved ones.

At the end of the day, it's about finding joy and peace during the holidays—not stressing yourself out trying to make it perfect. So, be kind to yourself and enjoy the season in whatever way works best for you.

Set Realistic Expectations

The holiday season is filled with expectations that can leave us overwhelmed and stressed. Thus, the best way to overcome these feelings is to set realistic expectations for yourself. Let go of the idea that the holidays need to be a certain way and focus instead on what you can do.

Having realistic expectations doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the joy of the holidays. It just means that you should be mindful of your limitations and prioritize activities, tasks, and obligations that bring you the most comfort, joy, and peace.

For instance, if you're feeling overwhelmed with gifts, consider cutting back on how many presents you give or drawing names for a gift exchange where only one person gets a present from each family. Or, if you're feeling stressed about decorating for the holidays, consider downsizing and focusing on decorations that mean the most to you.

It's important to remember that your holiday experience is unique, and it doesn't need to look like everyone else's. It's even okay not to meet all expectations. After all, perfection does not exist. So don't worry about making everything or everyone happy. Set realistic expectations, and avoid comparing yourself or your holiday to what others are doing. 

Take Care of Yourself

Above all else, the holidays are a time for self-care. It can be easy to forget about taking care of yourself amid all the holiday planning and shopping. However, it's important to remember that taking care of yourself is essential to living a healthy and balanced life.

To ensure you're in the best mental and physical health this holiday season, practice these tips:

  • Eat nutritious meals and snacks - maintain a healthy diet and avoid overindulging in sweets and alcohol
  • Exercise - even if it's just a short walk, exercising can help you stay energized and reduce stress
  • Get enough sleep - give yourself adequate rest so that you're alert and productive
  • Practice mindful meditation - take a few moments each day to relax your mind and practice gratitude
  • Set boundaries - don't be afraid to say no if you're feeling overwhelmed or overbooked

And if all fails and you find yourself struggling to manage stress or depression, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Talk to a friend or family member about how you're feeling, or seek support from a mental health professional

Get Outside

Getting outside and enjoying the fresh air can also be helpful if you are struggling with the holiday blues. A little Vitamin D from the sun can also help boost your mood. So, make an effort to get outside at least once a day and take in some sunshine and fresh air—whether it's for a quick walk, to enjoy the view of your neighborhood lit up with holiday lights, or to spend some time in nature.

You can also explore some of your area's local holiday attractions or festivals. Check out holiday-themed light displays, ice skating rinks, or a nearby winter market. You could even take a trip to a ski resort and go sledding, snowshoeing, or ice skating to lift your spirits. Plus, they are great ways to get some exercise and stay active during the winter months.

To Sum Up

The holidays can be a tricky time for many of us who are experiencing holiday blues. But with a few small changes and some self-care, it is possible to manage your stress levels and enjoy the season. Reach out to Jackson House if you need additional support. Our team of professionals is here to help and provide you with the necessary tools to get through this special time of year.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

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