Living Columns & Blogs

Tips for fighting the holiday blues, and signs to look for

Winter is here and the holidays are upon us. For many of us, this is a time with family and friends, with memories and traditions. But these cold and gray days can cause everyday feelings and struggles to be magnified, turning the season into a painful episode of the blues. Feelings of loneliness, loss, isolation and disappointment may be felt more poignantly than ever, especially if someone is still in the active grieving process.

As important as it is to make sure that we are reaching out to others, it is important that we recognize these same needs among ourselves. Although there is no magical solution when it comes to coping with difficult feelings, there are choices that we can make to get through challenging times.

Here are some tips to combat the holiday/winter blues:

  • Acknowledge that the holidays may be different than they have been in the past and/or different than the romanticized version that the media projects.
  • Acknowledge your feelings and know they are legitimate.
  • Set realistic limits on the use of your energies. Don’t take on any new responsibilities and set healthy boundaries.
  • Be good to yourself. Make time for yourself.
  • Give yourself permission to experience joy, while also allowing yourself to grieve.
  • Surround yourself with people who validate your feelings and can understand and support you.
  • Create new holiday/winter rituals that have meaning to you.
  • Take every day one at a time.

Please remember that stress, anxiety and depression felt at any time during the year can be treated. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

● Sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness

● Irritability, angry outbursts, frustration even over small matters

● Withdrawal from friends and family

● Loss of interest in activities or loss of pleasure in normal activities

● Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much

● Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort

● Changes in appetite — reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain

● Anxiety, agitation or restlessness

● Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility

● Difficulty in thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things

● Unexplained physical problems such as backaches and headaches

● Thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide

Please reach out to others if they present symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression and let them know that you care and that there is help by sharing their concerns with a medical or mental health professional. Encourage them to set up an appointment with their family physician as a first step. If you find yourself in an emergency situation concerning depression and suicide, call the Community Can Help Line at 1-800-643-5432. They will send someone to help you no matter where you are.

Practice kindness daily during this season and take the time to care about one another. Happy winter!

Susan Marshall is SCASD’s family and community engagement counselor.
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