Every year, I look forward to this time of year. But I haven’t always felt so positive; as a young adult, I struggled to enjoy the season.
During my childhood, the holidays were all about presents, snow and cookies. After I moved out on my own, I realized I needed to grow up, and the holidays began to lose their magic.
I now had to work to afford presents for my family and friends. I couldn’t always take off work to celebrate with my family. Some years, I didn’t even have gas money for the drive home. When my family decided to visit me, I had to keep the house clean and tidy. And I still had to go to work every day.
I usually gained 10 pounds because I was too busy to work out, and I gave in to the temptation from all the seasonal sweets.
In time, the stress became unbearable. I started resenting the season. I wished I could crawl under a blanket in October and emerge in January. I stopped attending holiday parties and resented family get-togethers. I embodied Scrooge, and everyone around me knew it.
Then a few years ago, I heard about seasonal affective disorder. A friend casually mentioned that her sister always felt depressed during the holidays. Bright lights and a support group gave her a better outlook on the season.
I decided to talk to my doctor, and he discussed sources of the holiday blues. Physical fatigue, financial pressure, family conflict and unrealistic expectations were the cause of my depression. He suggested a few useful techniques that helped me overcome the holiday blues.
First, I stopped worrying about expectations. The holiday season is fun, but I can’t do everything. I have to choose the most valuable and important traditions and let everything else go. Holiday cards were the first expectation I dropped. I can always send a free electronic greeting card to the people I don’t see every day. My stress level lowered immediately, and I decided to cut down on the decorations this year. I’ll hang the lights, but the rest of the décor will stay in a box in my garage or get donated to charity.
Next on my list was the food. Homemade sweets and seasonal buffets taste great, but they’re not great for my waistline or mood. I decided to indulge in a few bites of my favorite sweets only during parties and keep up my healthy eating regimen.
I’m also going to stay physically active. Last year, I committed to following my normal workout schedule, and I felt good physically and emotionally.
My family will be visiting my house for a meal this year. I’ll tidy up before they come over, but they’ll have to clean up any dust bunnies they point out. I want to enjoy spending time with my family, not stress out over the cleanliness of my home.
We also decided to forgo gifts. Instead, we’ll enjoy being together as we play games and watch old home movies.
If you feel stressed, depressed or unmotivated to celebrate this year, talk to your doctor. He can give you tips on recognizing the signs of depression and finding the joy again. Bust the holiday blues this season when you give yourself permission to feel the magic again.
About the Author: Danielle writes on behalf of Sears and other brands she uses. This Christmas, she’s asking Santa for a treadmill so she can channel her stress into physical activity all year long. She hopes it will also help her deal with post-holiday blues as she exercises away all the extra calories she will inevitably consume.