Larry Alan Nadig, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologsit, Marriage & Family Therapist

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by Larry Nadig,
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Last updated:
July 19, 2010

 

How to overcome the "Holiday Blues"

There are many factors that can cause the depressed, stressed, agitated, fatigued, down and out, dreaded bad feelings that many people experience over the holidays. In order to effectively resolve and overcome the holiday blues, you need to know what they are about for you.  There is no one universal solution, since what is depressing or stressful for one person may not be for someone else, and what works for one may not work for another. 

Pay attention to your specific issues and situation. How and what you pay attention to is important.  The holiday blues are so obvious, people tend to either focus on how bad they are feeling, or put their focus on avoiding the bad feelings. Unfortunately, neither tactic will resolve the issues, and could easily make things worse.  

It is important to realize that the bad feelings are not the real problem. The bad feelings are a symptom of a problem. You are reacting to something that is not right and you havenít fixed it or resolved it yet. It could be something that has happened or is happening in your world, or something within you, such as your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes, or a combination of external and internal factors. Look beyond the bad feelings, pay attention, and let yourself know what you are reacting to. The solution to many of the issues may be obvious once the issues or real problems are identified. Don't overlook possible underlying medical problems, biochemical imbalances, side effects from prescribed medications the side effects from alcohol and other drugs, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.  

Some common causes

The holidays are supposed to be a time of happiness, good cheer, joy, fellowship with loved ones and optimistic hopes for the coming new year. During the holiday season, we are bombarded and inundated with reminders of the holidays. The multitude of reminders can be a trigger for several unresolved issues such as:

Past loses.
Unresolved grief.
Anticipating a significant loss.
Contrast between then and now.
Disappointment about now.
Contrast between image of holiday joy and reality of ones life.
Sense of increased isolation and loneliness.

The holiday season is also a busier and more stressful time. We have more things to do, more things to buy, there is more traffic, parking is more difficult, stores are crowded and we wait longer. The extra demands on our time, attention, energy and finances can be very stressful, and for some, the "holiday blues."

Problem solve it.

Don't make yourself helpless and don't accept the role of a victim. There is much you can do to make it better for yourself.

If your holiday blues are a manifestation of the stress from all the extra demands of the holidays, do some things to reduce the demands. Rethink how you view and approach the holidays. Also review your beliefs about what you have to do and the consequences of not doing what you believe you must do. Is it really necessary to buy all those people gifts? Is it really necessary to buy such expensive gifts? What is the purpose and meaning of your giving? Might there be an even more meaningful way of giving that is less demanding on you. Don't forget to keep the overall picture in mind. Making the effort to get a gift or do something nice for one person may be easy, but it gets more difficult and demanding on you as you increase the number of people you give to. Sometimes just deciding what to get or do for someone is difficult and time consuming. What could you do to make it less demanding? Don't just follow your tradition without talking to your family and friends about it. Families and relationships change over time, so make sure current efforts are appropriate for how your family and relationships are now. Brainstorm with your family about it, or ask your friends how they approach it. You might also be able come up with a better plan, such as giving yourself more time by starting your efforts several weeks earlier. 

If your holiday blues are stemming from past losses, take advantage of the holidays to help you complete your mourning and finish your grieving over the loss. You will likely need to feel the sadness and grief, and be intellectually clear with yourself as to what you lost and the magnitude of the loss. If you accept the loss and the feelings that go along with the loss, the intensity of the bad feelings will lessen. In order to complete mourning and finish grieving, one has to find other ways of getting his/her needs met that were met by the person that is gone. It might be difficult and it will require effort, but don't let yourself lose more than necessary. Once you complete your grieving you will be able to experience good feelings when you reminisce. You might have a twinge of sadness at times, but the agonizing pain will be gone.

There are many different kinds of losses that cause grief. There is a loss of loved one, loss of meaning and purpose, loss of health, loss of a body part, loss of important material things, loss of status, as well as past, present and anticipated future loss, to list a few. I can not outline the specifics of how to handle all the different types of loss and the holiday blues, but I can give you three principles that if applied properly will enable you to overcome the holiday blues. The three principles are in the first verse of the Serenity Prayer which reads, "God grant me the serenity to (1) accept the things I can not change, (2) the courage to change the things I can, and (3) the wisdom to know the difference. Learn how to apply these three principles and serenity will replace the holiday blues.

Serenity Prayer

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Contents: .
Home 

How to Express

Difficult Feelings 

Tips on Listening 

Conflict: Healthy

or Unhealthy

Stress: Health &
Relationship Killer

Selecting a Mate

Weight Control

Holiday Blues

How to Get the Most From Therapy 

Psychological Tests

About Dr. Nadig

Treatment Philosophy

Professional Services and Fees