Tue | May 21, 2019

Beating the holiday blues

Published:Monday | December 10, 2018 | 9:20 PMDr. Tobi Lawson and Jessica Thompson\Contributors

The holiday season is upon us, and many of us experience an emotional shift around this time of year. Some of us may feel overcome by a celebratory mood, but others of us may struggle with negative emotions around the Christmas season.

The Christmas season can be particularly difficult for those of us who have experienced loss, have been or still are grieving, or are experiencing discord in relationships, for example.

If you’re finding yourself bogged down by the holiday blues, here are some points to note:

1. RECOGNISE THE SIGNS:

You may not always notice yourself slipping into a low mood. Look out for behaviour and mental changes, like increased or decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping or sleeping much more than usual, feeling unmotivated, difficulty concentrating, and decreased desire to socialise.

2. ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS:

The holiday season does not need to be completely happy, merry, and bright. It’s okay to have a hard time with it. Rethink your expectations of the season and of yourself during the season, and try not to force yourself into a constantly positive state. For example, if you’d normally cook a full Christmas dinner but are having trouble committing to that this year, focus on one dish instead.

Be gentle with yourself, here. Your situation may not be what you want or where you thought you would be, but know that you can accept this while still remaining open to the possibility of joy.

Give yourself permission to adjust in whatever way is necessary to cope with your blues this season.

3. DRINK IN MODERATION:

The Christmas holidays are a festive time, and it’s easy to get carried away with the white rum sorrel. This is not advised - alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down your nervous system, which then affects your emotional state. This often means that it makes the blues feel even bluer.

It also impairs your judgment, so you may end up acting on whatever negative emotion you’re experiencing in a way you’ll later regret (for example, telling off that one aunt who has been bothering you lately in front of your whole family gathering).

4. GET MOVING:

Be sure to maintain your regular exercise routine this season (if you don’t have one, now is a great time to create one). Moving your body is an easy way to stabilise or even elevate your mood. Also, keeping up with a routine helps when coping with the blues because it creates a sense of normalcy.

5. STAY CONNECTED:

Try to socialise in authentic ways. The blues may make you feel to withdraw from friends and family, so socialising may feel unnatural to you, but isolation can make things worse. Focus on creating meaningful interactions with the people with whom you feel most at ease.

Try to drop by a friend’s house to share some Christmas cake; visit a family member to check in; or plan a relaxed date with your partner to watch a movie or share some ice cream. Authentic, comfortable interactions are the key here.

6. GIVE BACK:

Finding ways to be helpful to others can actually be very helpful for yourself if you’re feeling emotionally low. Turning your attention towards serving the needs of others can be incredibly affirming.

Dedicate some time and energy to a cause that means something to you, whether it be collecting and donating toys to children, purchasing supplies for an underserved school in preparation for next term, spending time with elderly members of your community, or doing some volunteer work with an animal society.

This may also help you feel more authentically connected to others during this season.

7. NUTRITION:

Although this season may seem like a difficult time to focus on health and diet, proportion is the name of the game. Every interaction (for example, family dinners, gatherings with friends, church events) will likely be built around carb-loaded foods and baked goods this season.

These foods may not be helpful for your blues, since they’re not very nutritious, and nutrition does impact your emotional state. Try eating before attending an event to moderate how much you eat there.

You can also do things like regifting pesky Christmas cookies and cakes and avoid standing next to the dessert table (you’re more likely to overindulge if it’s within arm’s reach).

If you are looking to kick it up a notch, consider increasing your Vitamin D, Zinc, Omega 3, and good old fashioned water intake. These changes are bound to have you feeling more energised.

8. ASK FOR HELP:

You may benefit from seeing a mental health professional (for example, psychologist or therapist) for support to manage your holiday blues. This is particularly important and helpful if you are coping with a serious life event such as a significant loss.

It’s tough to participate in holiday activities if your situation feels overwhelming – you don’t want to be the Grinch at the holiday party, but you also cannot ignore your feelings.

Sharing your experience with a neutral third party, with whom you will be able to speak openly and honestly, may therefore help you to compartmentalise so that your holiday blues don’t prevent you from engaging with friends and family during the season.

9. YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Last but not least, know that you are not alone. A great deal of people struggle with stress, fatigue, sadness, and that sense of ‘feeling blue’ during the holiday season. You are not the only one!

We hope that these tips help you to Beat Your Blues this Christmas.

* Dr. Tobi Lawson, BA MBBS, and Jessica Thompson, MSc. counselling psychologist, work at CENTRED. CENTRED is a therapeutic practice that offers psychological services for children and adults dealing with emotional, behavioural, and social difficulties. Phone: (876) 281-8601. Email: info@centredja.com. Address: 28 Munroe Road, Kingston 6. Website: www.centredja.com; yourhealth@gleanerjm.com