Beating the Holiday Blues

Sheron Sumner   -  
The holiday season is here!  A time joy, togetherness, and connection with family and friends. However, for the mentally ill who may be isolated from family and friends, these happy feelings can be replaced with anxiety and depression during the holidays. Often, those with mental health challenges are not included in the festivities; they distance themselves from people who trigger negative thoughts and memories. Seniors, especially those who have outlived their family members, people suffering from physical or chronic illness, and those with a less busy lifestyle often feel blue during the holidays, too.
Taking a proactive approach to combatting sadness during and following the holidays is critical, as depression can have long-lasting negative health impacts, and the effect of social isolation is also significant with well-documented health consequences.
Here are some ways to beat the holiday blues.
Resist the urge to stay home alone. Learn to say yes to casual invitations. Check the local community and church calendars for the many opportunities to attend events, such as concerts, plays, and small social gatherings. These activities are a good way to lift your mood by keeping your mind on other things and by being around other people. Even calling or visiting a neighbor can be an uplifting activity.
Plan Ahead:  
Plan an agenda of activities for the holidays. There will be choices to make; thoughtfully consider events that bring you joy and meaning. If you are a caregiver, consult with family members on ways to get them involved. If you are a family member or friend of someone who is mentally ill or a senior living in isolation, plan something special (and simple) and strive to include them so they can receive the Christmas spirit from others. If there is no plan, joy, love, and peace are likely to be missing from the holidays.
Relive your best memories:  
For some people, anxiety and depression can be worse when they are idle. Look through past holiday photos and cards and remember old friends and family and the happy times you shared. Share your baking, crafts, or needlework, and create a small gift for those who have supported you and made your days brighter during the year. Find a way to listen to your favorite Christmas hymns and music. Watch your favorite holiday movie or read your favorite scripture. Choosing enjoyable activities can help you combat negative thinking and create “all is calm, all is bright.”
Find new ways to make your holiday meaningful: New opportunities bring new challenges and friends. Explore new ways to make the holiday meaningful, such as volunteering to help others in need, can help make the season of giving brighter for everyone. The December WMPC newsletter highlights many events you can volunteer to help.
Happy Holidays to all!
By Sheron K. Sumner, WMPC member