The University Doctors Patient Information

Keeping holidays from turning “blue”

The holiday season can bring great joy, a time when celebrating with family and friends is buoyed even further by a sense of renewal and the hope for better things in the year that approaches. Not everyone will share in the celebratory nature of the holiday season, however. For some, the presence of so much celebration – in real life and in the media – can cause a heightened awareness of the things that make them feel sad. There’s nothing wrong with occasional sadness or with reflecting on the past during the holidays, and those who are alone or who have lost a loved one either during this year or during a previous holiday season may be more susceptible to feeling the blues this season. This is especially true for those who have a limited support system of friends or relatives.

No one wants to feel sad at this time of year, but if you are feeling more dread than joy about the holiday season, you can take some proactive steps to help steer yourself away from sadness.

First, make a plan to stay as busy as possible over the next few weeks. Make a list that includes some fun activities that you either do by yourself or with others. You’ll probably find that inviting others along will lead them to reciprocate with invitations for you to join with them in their activities.

Second, keep expectations reasonable. Because the holiday season is a time when we stand between two calendar years, we have a natural tendency to compare our past to our lives today. Your childhood Christmas may have seemed ideal, but that’s probably because you didn’t have to worry about buying the presents, cooking the meals or planning family gatherings. We also have a tendency to compare ourselves with others and think that we are the unfortunate ones. The reality is that everyone’s life is a mix of pain and pleasure. Learn to count your blessings and to cherish and accept each season in each year as special in its own way.

Another way to feel good is by volunteering to help others. All kinds of organizations, including animal shelters, nursing homes, soup kitchens, food banks and hospitals rely heavily on volunteers. Most newspapers carry extensive lists of groups or institutions that are looking for volunteer help.

At the same time, be aware of family, friends or neighbors who may be alone—and lonely—this holiday season. Make a special effort to reach out to them and to include them in your celebrations.

The holidays are truly a time when that old saying, “the more, the merrier,” can hold true. Finally, if you are feeling blue and are having a difficult time coping with those feelings, don’t assume that you are alone. You’ll find that family and friends will be more compassionate and understanding than you may have thought. If they are not available, make it a point to talk to your physician or a member of the clergy. Many times, simply talking about your feelings can make even the darkest case of the blues seem a lot brighter.

Originally Published in The University Doctors' MedicaLink - 12/07

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