The Holiday Blues
I don't know about you, but I'm always bothered by the many stories this time of year talking about the holiday blues. At DBSA, it seems to be the season for a lot of media calls. It's like, all of a sudden, depression and bipolar disorder are popular and acceptable topics. And it always seems to me that the media just misses the point.
It's like mood disorders get lumped together with feeling sad because of unhappy memories of holidays past. Depression is seen as just a feeling of sadness and not the difficult and life-threatening illness that it is. I often remark that comparing this kind of sadness to depression is like comparing an upset stomach to stomach cancer-it simply is not the same thing at all.
Having said that, I do recognize that, for those of us living with these illnesses, the holidays may be triggers that we need to prepare for in advance. The triggers might be things like the work and pressure of getting ready for the holidays ... the strain on our incomes ... the memories of difficult or unpleasant times ... the rich food, plentiful drink and late nights ... or situations with family or others who are difficult to be around. These are things that can make the holidays hard to bear.
So, at DBSA we recommend the following tips and techniques for the holiday season:
Set reasonable expectations. Remember the spirit of the season. It's not about who has the best decorated house or who can buy the most gifts. You, along with your family and friends, will have a more pleasant experience if you don't overextend yourself.
Don't take on more than you can handle. If your to-do list gets too long, divide up the tasks over a week's time. One long list suddenly looks so much better when there are only a couple of things to do each day.
Delegate tasks. It's OK to ask for help; you can't expect yourself to do everything. Let the saying "Many hands make little work" be more than just a cliché this year.
Schedule time alone. It doesn't have to be a lot of time. Fifteen minutes of quiet time can be quite rejuvenating, particularly for parents or in households where there's a lot of activity or out-of-town company. Make a cup of tea, go for a walk or find a quiet place to enjoy for a bit. The sounds of silence will be music to your ears.
Be honest with family and friends about how you feel. Make sure there's someone you can talk to over the holidays. Don't be afraid of bringing everyone down with your mood; your family and friends may be worried about you, and you will all feel better if there's an open line of communication. Once you vocalize your feelings to someone you trust, you'll be better able to manage your moods.
Stick with your wellness plan. It's easy to let your normal routine slip during this busy time of year, but keep doing those things (exercise, volunteer activities, support groups, etc.) that you know help you stay on track. If support groups are part of your wellness plan, make them a special priority. You'll not only be getting the support you need, you'll be helping your peers as well.
What tips do you have to share? I would love to hear about them.