The Holiday Blues

The holidays are seen as a warm, joyous time of year. Friends and family coming together, big dinners and celebrations, the exchange of gifts, and vacations. What’s not to love about the holiday season?

I remember growing up, our whole family would get together. It was nice. Once on Thanksgiving and again on Christmas. Those two days I would see the most food I’ve seen all year. A bunch of it home cooking. Who needs store bought dinners and pies when your grandmother and aunts know how to cook?

Sports games would be on every tv. Each room a different game. Adults chatting about who knows what, kids playing, and jokes flying. Some of my best memories took place over the holidays.

But in recent years, the holidays bring about other, less joyous, feelings. I haven’t been able to visit in a few years now. My great-grandma Lucky passed away December 16, 2007 and my grandpa Bill passed away November 13, 2017. So for me, these days, the holidays is a bunch of memories of holidays past and remembering my grandparents.

For many, this is how the season is for them. Upsetting, stressful, and depressing. Not necessarily for the same reasons, but the feelings are the same. It’s not that people don’t want to feel the joy and warmth that come along with the holiday season, it’s just that life sometimes makes it hard for us to do so.

According to various studies, people largely feel more stressed during the holidays than the rest of the year because of the extra spending and family gatherings. People are stressed about

  • Work
  • Family
  • Gift-giving
  • Extra spending
  • Lack of time

Not all seasonal depression is caused by the passing of loved ones. In many, it’s the very idea of the holidays themselves. Holidays that have gone from meaningful family gatherings to nothing more than mere commercialization.

People are concerned about working extra hours, but then get upset when they’re passed over for the hours. They feel they need the extra money to pay for holiday dinners and gifts, but dread the actual overtime itself. Family is looked forward to, but dreaded at the same time. Many thinking about those family members they only see but once a year.

And then there’s time. For some reason, there seems to be less time in any 24hr day during the holidays then the rest of the year. Work is generally still the same amount of hours, unless you pickup an extra shift. Errands still take place the same day and time of the week you always do them. But for some reason, it always feels as though there just isn’t enough time.

As previously covered in I Am That I Am: The Outcast, I suffer from depression more serious than the holiday blues. But I will say, that the holidays does trigger, or worsen, my depression because I am unable to visit my family and have been struggling financially. The struggle always seems to worsen this time of year as everything skyrockets. Where I live, even electricity goes up with little to no change in usage. More funds needed to survive, means less funds (if any) can be utilized to head north to visit anybody.

But then there are people like my grandma Pat, who just last year lost her husband. It’s been a long time in the making that each year the holidays became smaller and smaller in gathering. But last year she had to deal with the passing of my grandfather. People like her are depressed over the holidays, not because of time or money, but because they lost the one person who means the most to them during this time of year. So when this time of year comes around, as hard as they try to be joyous, they can’t help but be depressed knowing it’s the anniversary of the passing of their spouse.

For others, it could be the passing of someone close to them other than a spouse. A close sibling, aunt or uncle, cousin, etc.

If you suffer with the holiday blues, regardless the reason, it’s important that you know you’re not alone. Many who seem joyous and happy may actually be suffering with seasonal depression too. It’s important not to allow yourself to drink too much or overeat. Doing so will only make the depression worse, and could cause it to linger on passed the holidays, and potentially develop into a more serious type of depression.

If you can’t visit family, rather than spend the holidays alone, visit a charity or non-profit holding an event. Many have community get togethers. Reach out and make new friends, and spend some time with them. Try to live each day as it comes.

When it comes to your financial struggles and spending stress, try to realize how over-commercialized the holidays have become. Be the trendsetter of your family by invoking the real reason for the holiday. You don’t need to buy $1K+ gifts for every child of all ages in the family. Get them a gift that has meaning that fits in your budget. The holidays aren’t supposed to be about gift expectations of children. They’re supposed to be about coming together as a family, laying down the current year and welcoming the new. It’s supposed to be a time of joy and warmth, not demands for the newest and greatest smartphone or gadget from your 4 – 17 yr old.

Give yourself time and room to relax. Step away from the commercialization of it all. You don’t have to be part of the commercialized holidays. Remember loved ones who passed, relax, spend time with people even if it can’t be your family. Even if you can’t be with your family this year, you could still call them and wish them well.

Talk about your lost loved ones, but focus on the good memories. This is something seldom done, and needs to be done to help you and others cope and release stress related to the loss. Allow the loved ones who passed away to be with you in spirit through conversing about memories of them.

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