christmas_shopping If you have listened to the radio during the Christmas season, you probably heard many songs proclaiming how joyful this season is, including the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

For many people, Christmas is a time filled with mixed emotions, including sadness, anxiety, and grief.  These feelings can be increased by the expectation that people are supposed to be happy around the holidays.  A person experiencing sadness or anxiety may have feelings of loneliness and shame as they think that everyone else is so joyful at this time.

People may have increased sadness and during holiday seasons for several reasons, including:

  • Grief reactions: The pain of losing a loved one becomes more pronounced during the holidays.  Even happy holiday memories involving deceased loved ones may cause bittersweet emotions.
  • Expectations: Holidays carry certain expectations, including expectations to participate in holiday events, expectations regarding gift giving, and expectations that people should be joyful.
  • Worry about spending time with family: Unresolved family issues and dysfunctional communication patterns cause added stress during the holiday season.
  • Money problems: The expectation to give gifts to family and friends can be stressful for someone who is experiencing financial problems.  Believing that you have to “keep up” with others and spend a certain amount of money adds to this feeling of stress.

How to deal with holiday blues:

  • Recognize that other people are experiencing these feelings too.  Give yourself permission to feel sad, and let go of the expectation that you have to be joyful because it’s the holiday season.
  • Let yourself experience some joys of the season that are meaningful to you.  Do you have a favorite holiday tradition? Consider participating in those traditions that bring happiness. Even if you are depressed, you may still feel some joy while participating in these activities.
  • Say no to holiday activities that bring stress and sadness.  You do not have to attend every party or every family holiday activity.  Know your limits and plan accordingly.
  • Plan a gift budget and stick to it.  Long after the holiday have passed, your credit card bills will still affect your life.  Is it worth it?  If finances are a big concern, consider handmade gifts or give the gift of time—plan a special activity with family or friends.
  • Set boundaries regarding family interactions. Decide in advance how you want to respond to dysfunctional communication patterns and behavior.  Plan opportunities to relax and separate from your family if your stress level increases.