Contrary to all the jewelry store and greeting card commercials, the brain is the heart of all emotions—joy, anger, love, loneliness, excitement and depression. With this being the holiday season, I thought it would be worthwhile talking about an all too common emotional state that some of us find ourselves in this time of year, the Holiday Blues.
By our societal views, the holiday season is supposed to be filled with positive emotions, but it’s not unusual for this time of year to bring to us packages of depression, heightened loneliness, and feelings of injustice, frustration, insecurity, and, well, the list could go on. And, if you are dealing with the holiday blues, then you have another struggle that will most likely be tossed into your lap, the Holiday Celebrant.
These are those apparently well intentioned folks who upon realizing that you aren’t enjoying the holidays quite as much as they are try to “help you out” with verbal inoculations of holiday cheer. And then, there are those special holiday-elves that go the next step further. If their verbal onslaught of, “Come on, you better not pout. Santa Clause is watching,” or “Don’t you just love all these festive decorations,” doesn’t magically transform you into a jolly person then they turn on you with, “Well, look who’s the Grinch,” or “Bah humbug to you” or the more traditional, “I guess I know who will be getting coal in their stocking.” To this I say, “Hey, with the price of fuel where it is, a little coal might be a pretty good present.”
The key here is that, we each make of this what we want to…To each our own and to each their own. For some, November and December are just the last two months of the year. To others this is a time of tradition, a merriment and celebration, and to others it’s time to print copies of their behinds on the office photocopier. As I said, the key is making of this time what you want it to be, not what you think you should make it.
My day-to-day work deals with helping seniors with emotional and cognitive challenges. During this time of year staff at A WiserMind sees a lot of people dealing with increased levels of depression, grief and other less-than-desirable emotions. For many, the catalyst is the self-reflection that many of us go through at this time of year. We compare today with the times of our childhood—often with a sense of nostalgia and longing. We compare ourselves with others—from a financial basis, an emotional basis, and even a relationship basis. We compare our expectations with our reality.
This comparison and expectation game is played by many of us regardless of age. It fosters and contributes to our holiday blues. Comparing our current state to the state of others or the state of our desires is unrealistic and unproductive. Let’s first look at comparison to others.
When we compare ourselves to others we’re actually comparing ourselves to a projection, an interpretation and perhaps a fabrication. If we see others and say, “Look at them. They’re happy. They have what they want. I want what they have.” First, how do we know these things? It’s very possible that they aren’t happy. They don’t have what they want. It’s very possible that they are miserable, just putting on appearances cause this is what they think they need to do. Secondly, this is an exercise in futility. You can’t be them. You are you. You can’t have their holiday as much as you may think it, but you can have your own holiday fashioned in your own way.
All you may want for Christmas is your two front teeth, or you may dream of a white Christmas, but these may not be possible. It’s the desire of the unobtainable that sometimes makes us not see what we really want. We also forget to account for what we have, or what we can get and instead waste all of our emotions and efforts on this items that are not relevant to the here and now. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we lower our expectations or that we destroy our dreams. What I’m saying is, if you live in Miami, wishing for a white Christmas isn’t going to work.
Too many times we focus on those activities and life elements that are out of our control, well beyond our influence and only exist within the realm of our desires and concerns. Unfortunately, as desires and concerns we they exist outside of our ability to do anything about them other than dream and worry. And to add make matters worse, since we are spending time focusing on those items for which we can do nothing we overlook the things that we can influence or control. This is something that I call the Life or Fear Spheres. It is illustrated above and they are something that I’ll likely talk about more in future blogs as we discuss ways of managing our emotions, establishing priorities in life and over-coming our perceived limitations.
If you are dealing with the holiday blues here are some suggestions.
- Follow the basics for good health: eat right, get plenty of rest and keep (or get) your body moving as much as possible.
- Do allow yourself to feel a little sad or melancholy. These are normal emotions.
- Try doing something for someone else. It doesn’t have to be grand or expensive. The little things make the difference.
- Enjoy what activities that you can. Try to be in the moment and not focus on the past, the future or the things that you can’t control.
- Take action on something you can control. This can be very empowering.
- Be good to yourself. Plan to make (or buy) a special meal, buy yourself something or treat yourself to an activity that you like. Guilty pleasures are pleasures…enjoy yourself and don’t let other make you feel guilty about it.
- If the holiday season is important to you then establish new traditions and ways of celebrating that are important to you and within your means. If you are feeling blue about the holidays then the most important person to make happy this year is you.
And the DON’Ts:
- Don’t over indulge in drink or holiday food…moderation in celebration is the key.
- Don’t have unrealistic expectations about yourself or others. Things won’t just magically change in people or yourself just because of a date on a calendar.
- Don’t spend money you don’t have.