Holiday depression: How to cope with the holiday blues

Black people celebrating the holidays

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‘Tis the season to be jolly, but frankly, the flurry of holiday activities can often have the opposite effect.

Whether we are worrying about paying for gifts and our bills, comparing the inadequacies of our lives to the media’s smiling images of holiday revelers, or simply trying to do it all, many people struggle with holiday depression during this season.

TheGrio is here to help. We’ve identified five common culprits and spoken with a few experts for ways to combat these emotional drains and keep the jingle in your step.

Dealing with added stress

Add travel plans, organizing big meals, and shopping to our already hectic schedules during the holiday season, and anyone’s scales are bound to tip. Dr. Charlie Brown, author, performance psychologist, executive coach, and director of Get Your Head in the Game, says that coping starts with understanding what constitutes stress.

“The working definition of stress is when perceived demands are greater than perceived resources,” Brown told theGrio. “To reduce stress, you either have to reduce the perceived demands, increase the perceived resources, or decide that it’s not that important.”

He says that a little planning can go a long way, and because our to do lists are often a mile long, we must break them down into more manageable steps. “You’ve got to say, okay, this is essential, this would be nice, and this is going to be a bit of fluff. Keep your attention on what is bare bones essential, and learn to tune out the distractions.”

This is also a period when we run ourselves ragged: we eat too much, we drink too much, and we don’t get enough rest. Dr. Brown suggests that we take extra care of our bodies by getting some exercise every day. “Build in some type of activity, get some sleep, and drink lots of fluids. If you are tired and rundown, you are going increase your probability of stress and blowing up.”

Try to find some time alone for quiet reflection, even if it’s just five minutes, and take huge load off by simply accepting that not everything will get done perfectly. Learn to be okay with that.

Minimizing overblown expectations

Most people’s lives do not resemble a Hallmark card, but around this time of year, many hold onto the expectation that their life can and should. It’s almost as if we have been programmed to believe that we must feel and act a certain way during the holidays.

Brown says that when we place those crazy expectations on ourselves, “it’s easy to get into a funk in a skinny minute.”

Your holidays may not be exactly what you dream they could be, but Brown suggests that stepping back and looking at the big picture can help you gain perspective. “Find some time to practice being mindful of what is going on around you. Just pause and look at the simple pleasures, the little bitty things,” he said. “Usually we get upset because of those overblown expectations in our head of what the holidays should be, or ought to be. If you can just step back, breathe, get your pulse down and be appreciatively curious about what’s going on around you, even in the middle of a crazy shopping mall, it can [create] fascinating enjoyment.”

So instead of reaching for a level of merriment that might well be unattainable, look at the small, pleasurable things around you, and make those your focus.

Deflecting family dynamics

This time of year brings family members together who don’t often see each other.  There is a lot of pressure to get along for the sake of the holidays, but interpersonal dynamics can really throw a wrench into that.