During the holiday season, are you humming “Holly Jolly Christmas” or is “Blue Christmas” the song that keeps running through your head? Maybe it's “I'll Be Home for Christmas,” with its wistful longing. Are you surprised that you don't feel as joyous and celebratory as you usually do, or as you feel you should?
You could have the holiday blues. People who aren't acquainted with depression are surprised when they feel melancholy or blue during the holiday season. (Those who are accustomed to depression are used to feeling that way any time of the year). But these emotions seem so wrong and out of place at this time of the year.
The holiday blues are unsettling, and for many people, unexpected. One of the strongest emotions you can feel with the holiday blues is a sense of guilt and disappointment. After all, the holidays are supposed to make us feel joyous and celebratory, not sad and melancholy. Many people feel that something must be wrong with them.
What generally causes these holiday blues? Here are a few of the different causes and triggers:
- Expectations of the holiday that are too high for reality to measure up to.
- Expectations for yourself during the holiday that are impossible to measure up to.
- The commercialization of the season.
- Sadness over the loss of a friend or family member.
- Being with family or friends who you have issues with.
- Dissatisfaction over what you doesn't have materially.
- Increased stress and more hectic lifestyle.
- Lack of sleep and less-healthy nutrition.
Many of us have childhood memories of the holidays that are sugarplum visions of perfection, and the adult experience suffers in comparison. It's very possible that our memories are accurate, but we tend to forget that as children we weren't responsible for anything except perhaps helping to trim the tree or picking out presents or "helping" to cook. We're in charge of a lot more now, so the joys of the holidays are now combined with stress and the need to organize and plan. If we adjust our expectations to an adult experience of Christmas instead of holding onto our childhood experience, we'll probably enjoy the season more.
Keep your own expectations of what you can accomplish realistic. Scale back if you think you've been too ambitious. If you get everything done and find yourself with free time before the holidays, great. You can always do more then. Remember that gift certificates are not a cop-out for people like your mail carrier or your child's scout troop leader and buying some of your holiday meal instead of making it all yourself is not a sin.
Are you starting to grit your teeth every time you see or hear a holiday-related commercial? The rampant consumerism and commercialization of the holidays at times seem to usurp the meaning of the season. Since the only place you could possibly block out these sales pitches is a mountaintop in Tibet, the best way to handle it is to realize that yes, the holidays have been commercialized. Merchants try to sell things to you – that's their business. But that doesn't mean that you have to let it bother you. You can make an effort to connect with the parts of the holiday that aren't commercialized.