This time of year, it can seem like EVERYONE is busy being cheerful, getting together with family, and celebrating every chance they get. But what if this time of year has the opposite effect on you? Maybe you lost a family member who you used to celebrate with so now the holidays feel empty and lonely. Or maybe you’re not close to your family anymore, and you really feel it now. Or maybe you lost your job or experienced another hardship that means you won’t be celebrating as you’d like. I could go on and on. You might feel like you’re the only one who can’t muster any holiday cheer, but you are far from alone.
Rates of depression and anxiety in November and December are higher than at any other time of year. But there are a few ways you can help to curb this tendency. Here’s what to do when the holiday season gets you down.
There is no one “right” way to celebrate the holidays. Forget tradition. Forget what you think is “normal.” You get to decide how to engage this holiday season. Get creative. If that means cozying up with a good book, a hot bath, and your favorite food, so be it. If it means inviting a friend over for Chinese take-out and a good movie, great! If it means reaching out to a family member, neighbor, or friend and asking if they have extra room at their table, fine! If it means showing up at a religious activity that you’ve been thinking of getting involved with, go for it!
Whatever you do, be intentional about it. Make a plan, no matter how simple. Create a tradition of your own.
One of the best ways to rewire your brain for happiness is to shift your focus from what’s going wrong to what’s going right. It’s a simple practice. All you have to do is think about three things you are grateful for, every day. Grab a notebook or piece of paper, and start today. At first, it might feel like there is nothing left to be grateful for, especially when times are hard. But that means that you’re overthinking it. Instead, think small. Did you wake up this morning? Be grateful you’re still breathing and still have your wits about you. Did you eat breakfast? Be grateful that you have food on your table. Did you go outside today? Be grateful that you got to take a breath of fresh air.
By being grateful for even the smallest details in your day, you’ll begin to shift your perspective. Keep up the practice even if it feels like it’s not working. You’ll be amazed at what changes over time.
The holidays are hard, there is no doubt about it. If you just can’t seem to shake the winter blues, reach out to a professional who can be there for you. A qualified therapist can help you get through the hard times. It’s what they do. Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s actually one of the bravest things you can do.
No matter what difficulties you’re facing this season, remember that, as they say, “This too shall pass.” It’s not the difficulties that matter as much as how you face them. I wish you a creative, grateful, and brave holiday season.