I discovered this year that the holidays make me sad. I’m sad when they’re over, but this year I felt sad while there were going on, too. There were times I wished they were over. Now that they are, I don’t feel any better.
Blue Christmas, Blue January
I get it. The holidays are a melancholy time for many adults. I don’t know your age, but I suspect you’ve lived long enough to have had some disappointing Christmases, and have lost some people who were part of good Christmases Past. The songs tell us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but it’s also stressful, exhausting, and expensive. Things don’t go as planned, weather interferes, people drink too much, we find we have nothing to say to relatives, and we wind up with more stuff in our already cluttered houses. After a while, “God, get me through this!” becomes our mantra. Then, we’re relieved to turn the calendar page, everyone goes back to ordinary time, but we’re left with cold and dark days without the lights and music to lift our hearts, even a bit. I get it.
I have some ideas to manage the January blues, and I invite our readers to comment with what works for them. Here goes:
- Recall a holiday gathering where you didn’t have a good time, or had an awkward or hurtful exchange with someone. Imagine yourself back in that room, and think of the people there. As each face comes to mind, say “thank you” to that person. In your interaction with that person, there’s something to be grateful for, believe it or not. They affirmed you, or challenged you in some way. Their presence gave you an insight into yourself. That deepened understanding will help you in the future.
- Does this memory bring with it regret for something you did or said? Consider how you might make amends with this person. Forgive yourself for what stress, fatigue, or an aching heart may have caused you to do. Breathe through this hurt. As it lifts, you’ll know what to do, even if it’s as simple as trying to do better next time.
- Are you missing someone who passed away, and wasn’t with you through the holidays? Cry when you need to. Pay attention to how they show up in your life now. Did they teach you how to hard boil eggs? Or knit the afghan on your couch? Did they always love “Silent Night”?, or telling corny jokes? Memories of loved ones can sting. Feel the sting, then move to “thank you.” See how that soothes your heart.
- Do one thing every day that feels new and fun. Play music and dance, use your favorite mug, get some fresh air. When you feel the blues start to creep in, do one gentle thing to comfort yourself.
- The nights are long, so pay attention to your body’s call for more sleep. Gradually, our days will get longer, so hibernate to get ready for the next season.
- Cut back on alcohol. Booze is not our friend. It starts out all fun and friendly, but quickly turns on us. Its depressive effects affect our mood. Not much to celebrate there.
- Declutter. As Peter Walsh says, “If you don’t love it or use it, lose it.” Lighten up your space, and your heart will follow.
- Pay attention. There’s good in every moment. We may have to dig for it. For me, as I type these words, it’s the electricity that serves my home and office, my warm slippers, the quiet space to contemplate your question. Look around you, and you’ll find something for which to be grateful. Let these be your main thoughts.
The holiday season conjures up expectations, then holds up a stark mirror, revealing how our reality meets these expectations, and how it falls short. We’re reminded of the passing of time, how people change and leave and surprise us. Think of how you’d respond to a good friend, or your child, who comes to you and says, “I’m sad.” Poor response: “Get over it.” Better response: “We’ll sit here, together, till the sadness lifts.” Talk to yourself, and do for yourself, what you’d like those you love to do for you. Hang in there. The season will come ‘round again, and you’ll be better for it.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. This column, its author, and the publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity, and all comments are moderated.