By Jessica Rawlings, Program Evaluator, U.S. Army Public Health CommandDecember 3, 2013
It's that time of year again: Festive music fills the air, fireplaces crackle, and holiday cheer abounds. It's the most wonderful time of the year, right?
Not necessarily. Many people can find themselves dealing with the holiday blues and can be sad, lonely or even depressed. There are many reasons that people might find themselves struggling with the holiday blues: Pressure to feel merry, reminders of lost loved ones, and financial hardships are just a few. Military families can add one more reason to that list: Deployment. Coping with deployments can take a toll on one's emotional well-being, and this is only increased when a loved one's deployment spans the holidays.
Here are a few tips to help beat the holiday blues:
1.Take it one day at a time--try to avoid looking at this time of year as the "holiday season," instead try to break it down day by day, think of it as Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, or New Year's Day. Often, it is easier to think "I can get through this day" rather than thinking "I can get through this season."
2.Get in touch with family members by writing letters, visiting or making phone calls.
3.Try to avoid retail therapy--fight the temptation to spend extra money to make you feel better as this can lead to increased stress or depression when the credit card bills arrive.
4.Give yourself permission to have fun--it is normal to be sociable during the holidays, even if your loved one is not available to attend events with you.
5.Ask for help--you don't need to be superman or superwoman; you do not need to wing it alone, depend on close family and friends to help you through this time.
6.Stay busy--avoiding unstructured time may help to minimize difficult feelings. Try to fill your calendar with fun events and give yourself something to look forward to.
It is also important to know when "the blues" are a sign of something more. Depression is common around the holidays and recognizing the symptoms is a key step in getting the help you might need. Symptoms of depression include lack of sleep or over sleeping, over eating or not eating at all, crying for no reason or any reason, and loss of interest in activities. If you are experiencing these symptoms for an extended period of time and are concerned that you may be depressed, contact your primary care provider or Patient Centered Medical Home for help.
There are many ways to beat the holiday blues, but remember it is okay to feel what you are feeling. Forcing yourself to be happy can often make it worse. Try to incorporate some of the tips above if you find yourself feeling down during the holidays, and remember: you are not the only person experiencing the holiday blues.