You rush to get the house ready, buy gifts, host friends and family and then, come Dec. 26, find yourself in a funk and think ‘Is that all there is’?
Maybe you or your children are overwhelmed with sadness or a feeling of You dread each holiday season because, face it, your family is nothing like the Brady Bunch.
Sound familiar? You may just have the holiday blues—and you’re far from alone.
December and January is an “intense, emotional time for people,” according to Maple Grove Psychotherapist Jenny Reimann of Reimann Counseling Clinic.
Adults are not the only ones that can be troubled by the holiday blues. Children can have challenges during the holiday season as well.
“Increased expectations around the holidays, and idealized fantasies about what the holidays mean increase anxiety within the family,” said Lora Matz, PrairieCare Therapist and Clinical Education Specialist. “Kids with mental health challenges tend to be more stress vulnerable – the holidays are a time of stress for everyone. Stress vulnerability makes time with less structure, or changes in routines more problematic.”
Changes in behavior, such as more shut down, isolated or more “melt downs” are just some of the signs a child is emotionally bothered by the holiday season, according to Matz.
“Pre-adolescents and adolescents may act as if the holidays are not anything special,” she said. “In younger children, you may see signs of regression.”
The best way to life a child’s spirit during the holidays is to teach about giving, she said.
“Teaching about giving is so powerful. Reinforce special ways they can give – make something, doing things together, reinforce family traditions and activities,” Matz said. “If gift giving is part of the holiday tradition, encourage children to use their talents and creativity. Teaching children about the deeper meaning of the holiday in a way that is appropriate for their culture, spiritual beliefs, and family traditions."
Here are a few tips to avoid the holiday blues:
- Take time to reflect on past good times around the holidays. Start a gratitude journal/list…take time daily to add 1-2 items to the list. Post the list in a place where the whole family can see and contribute to the list, Metz said.
- Take frequent stress breaks.
- Find an activity to do. “When it gets cold and dark, we tend to just go home because its warm and cozy. But, we can get in a rut fast. Push yourself out to go and do something,” Reimann says.
- Spice up the home life, such as a family game night, to make things more exciting, Reimann suggests.
- Make sure to maintain social contacts, calling, emailing or other activities. “Getting outside is very important, even if it is dark out,” Reimann said. “I talk to a lot of people about vitamin D supplement during the winter months. “
While the holiday blues may go away, depression may not.
The holiday blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) go away, depression may not. Some of the symptoms are the same, but depression is persistent and may still be there once all the decorations are put away and the sun is making more than a cameo appearance each day.
If you think you might be struggling with depression, and especially if you find yourself thinking about suicide, seek emergency help right away, and talk to a physician as soon as possible.