And with the
nation still trying to recover emotionally from the events of
Sept. 11th, this may be a particularly tough season for those
prone to the holiday blues.
But you can
make it through -- and actually enjoy -- the holidays, experts
say. Just take a proactive approach to changing the patterns that
have dampened Christmases past.
that change is stepping out of your annual routine and taking
an honest assessment of who you are and why you follow the same
holiday rituals each year, says psychologist Herb Rappaport, author
of the book "Holiday Blues: Rediscovering the Art of Celebration."
too often, people get caught up in the emotion of holidays, and
they basically go on autopilot," he says.
as continuously hosting family gatherings that are perhaps too
large, or spending more time or money on gift shopping than you
really can afford will land you in emotional trouble, says Rappaport.
important to take some time and ask yourself what your history
with holidays is," Rappaport says. "If it's consistently
stressful or otherwise unpleasant, then think about the true reasons
of why you're doing those same activities every year."
holiday stress and even depression can be triggered by underlying
issues of self-esteem that surface when the pressures to be joyful
get to be too much.
are living alone, for instance, or who've lost a job, or are in
the midst of a divorce may find doubts about self-worth exacerbated
as they look around and see that everyone else seems so happy.
images and portrayals of joy and happiness around the holidays
can be overwhelming. And people who are unable to live up to that
model can wind up feeling inadequate, or as if something is terribly
wrong with them," says Dr. Marc Graff, a psychiatrist with
Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles.
And if such
get-togethers with relatives and friends mean having to offer
an annual update on the progress of your life and career, the
gatherings can be painful if things aren't going as you planned.
good part of the holidays is, perhaps, getting to see people you
haven't seen for a while," says Graff. "But the bad
part for some is having to see people you haven't seen
in a while."
it's your Uncle Joe asking once again if you've settled down or
found a better job yet. And if the answer is 'no,' of course you're
going to feel bad," he adds.
it's important to reassess your holiday plans and perhaps have
the willpower to change them, Rappaport says.
need to be brave enough and imaginative enough to change things
that don't make them happy," he says.
So you don't
feel up to hosting the big holiday bash again? Try asking someone
else to do it this year. Or, maybe skip the big presents and laborious
shopping escapades and try giving gift certificates.
yourself, 'Do I really want to do this activity?" says Rappaport.
"The self-awareness goes a long way."
attacks, though tragic, may help to bring about a much-needed
change in many family gatherings, shifting the focus from the
traditional progress reports to simply enjoying and being thankful
for each other's company.
around Thanksgiving a much bigger emphasis on gratitude than in
previous years, and I think that's continuing through the holidays,"
Rappaport says. "In gatherings where there may have been
tension and friction in previous years, there's more motivation
to put some of that aside and try to get to the core values of
togetherness that are connected to the holidays."
In his book,
Rappaport offers a list of "Ten Commandments to Help Improve
the Quality of Celebration." Here are a few:
choice. Don't be afraid to take more of a stand on how you really
want to celebrate, or if you even want to celebrate the holidays
imagination. Let this year's holidays offer a chance to be more
innovative than previous years. Don't want to hit the crowded
malls again with your mother? Try taking a long walk together
in a park, instead.
altruism. "Try extending your generosity and energy to
others. There's no better antidote for the self-absorption associated
with holiday blues than to get outside yourself and consider
the needs of others."
- Focus on
relationships. "The key to making holidays successful is
to understand and, as much as possible, accept the taste and
needs of other people."
Do: Visit the American Psychological Association for more
helpful information on
coping with holiday stress. And here's information from the
National Mental Health Association on
holiday depression and stress.
Reference Source 101