As we navigate the holiday season, many of us anticipate joy, warmth, and festivities. However, the holidays can bring about a complex mix of emotions, sometimes called the “holiday blues”. With my clients, I refer to it as melancholy, which can be sadness and pensiveness often mixed with a dose of bittersweetness. The women I work with sometimes feel overwhelmed, anxious, or lonely during these dark winter days.
The holiday blues can manifest in different ways, ranging from mild feelings of unease to more severe forms of depression. Some common factors contributing to these feelings include:
Loss and Grief:
The holidays can accentuate the absence of loved ones, particularly if they have passed away or are no longer a part of our lives. Grieving during a time traditionally associated with togetherness can intensify feelings of sadness and loneliness. The ache in our hearts doesn’t align with the cheer displayed in public or even on TV and socials.
Not everyone has a close-knit family or wrap-around friends. For those who feel isolated or disconnected, the emphasis on gatherings and social interactions during the holidays can be a stark reminder of their solitude.
The pressure to give and receive gifts, host gatherings, and engage in festive activities can lead to financial stress. The holidays may evoke anxiety and a sense of inadequacy.
The holidays often come with expectations of joy and merriment. When reality doesn’t align with these expectations, disappointment can lead to a sense of disillusionment.
Even those who enjoy the festivities and gather together with loved ones often feel a sense of impending sadness. The family members depart, and the house that may have been filled with hustle and laughter for a few days is quiet once more. This may trigger feelings associated with empty nesting all over again.
What To Do About Melancholy
Don’t Push It Away or Bury It:
It’s important to recognize and own your emotions. Suppressing or denying feelings can make you feel worse. Allow yourself to feel and express whatever emotions arise. It is amazing how the energy around our emotions dissipates and is not so charged when we honor our feelings. Give yourself grace; simply offer yourself a bit of kindness. Nurture yourself and indulge in
Adjust your expectations to align with your circumstances. Embrace simplicity and focus on the true essence of the holidays rather than societal expectations.
Create New Traditions:
Consider creating new ones if the usual holiday traditions add to your sadness. This could involve volunteering, traveling to unfamiliar places that are not loaded with memories of holidays past, exploring new activities, or spending time in nature.
Mammals are social creatures. Studies have shown that synchronized group activities, such as yoga, choir, Tai Chi, and playing instruments together, reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Reach Out for Support:
Don’t hesitate to share your feelings with friends, family, or a mental health professional. Talking about your emotions can provide relief and foster a sense of connection.
Take care of your physical and emotional well-being. Get enough rest, eat nutritious meals, engage in enjoyable activities, and incorporate relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing.
Holiday melancholy is a common experience for many, and it’s crucial to approach this season with self-compassion and understanding. It’s okay not to feel festive all the time. By acknowledging your feelings, modifying expectations, and seeking support, you can navigate the wintertime holiday and find moments of joy and connection.