The Holiday Blues ayasha December 22, 2015 USL Stories Dealing with the Holiday Blues (Holiday Special) Writer: Ayasha Roberson The holidays are that time of year where family and friends come together and celebrate the love they share with each other. It’s that time of year we get to spend extra amount of time with our loved ones who we don’t get to see regularly. You get to enjoy and reflect on the impactful moments that you experience with one another as you share in “the good & old times.” On the contrary, for some people, the holidays can bring up feelings of loneliness and sadness. With all the shopping for loved ones, party invitations, home decorating and cooking we can forget that there are many people who won’t have the chance to share in these experiences. For instance, some people may be disconnected from their family due to distance, physical illness, being in the hospital, away on duty or loss of a loved one; these experiences make it difficult for people to be in a cheerful holiday spirit. Unfortunately during the holidays you will be bombarded with messages from television commercials, internet, radio ads, street holiday decorations and even your coworkers about the joys of the holidays. This can be very frustrating or even downright depressing when you are not in the same holiday spirit everyone around you is in. Some people cannot even begin to understand the major relationship problems or issues that you have with your immediate family or close friends. They can’t relate because they have never been through it themselves or they are just absolutely oblivious that this can happen to someone. When this occurs we can’t always expect people to understand the disconnection we may be experiencing with our immediate family members (parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents, 1st or 2nd cousins, aunts, and uncles). Depression during the holidays is real with people having to face the holidays by themselves. I say this with experience since I have spent the last couple of years away from my family due to distance. However, going through this obstacle has made me stronger and which is why I want to share some coping habits to help with your depression during the holidays. I will be focusing on non-traditional, spiritual and traditional way of getting you through the depression we may sometimes feel this time of year. A nontraditional way to help cope with depression is getting out of your comfort zone and helping another person. One of the many things that experts on depression suggest to help people cope with depression during the holidays is to volunteer. You wouldn’t think but it keeps the focus off of ourselves and places our concentration on someone else that is in need. Not sure where to volunteer this season? My suggestion is to volunteer at a Soup Kitchen, local Food Bank, Toys for Tots Drive, or any place where you can help those who are less fortunate than yourself. Being able to think of others and be a helping hand actually makes us feel good about ourselves. Also volunteering can awaken you to be grateful about the things and people in your life after having to see what other people go without in their daily lives. After volunteering you should be very thankful for the roof over your head, food on the table and clothes on your back as many people do not have the privilege to engage in these luxuries. As the old saying goes there is always someone worse off than you so count your blessing instead of adding up your problems. A spiritual way to cope with the holiday blues is to find words for them and put them on paper and out of your head. Some people may find writing out their thoughts to be a depressing thing to do but psychotherapists agree that it helps us understand and reflect on why we may feel depressed and lonely. I consider this a spiritual approach because we are digging deep within ourselves to purge out the many negative emotions hidden within. It is recommended to follow up with immediate solutions to help you stay afloat from the depression. (1) Encourage yourself on what you would like to change about yourself. You can begin to read books that focus on personal growth. Watch YouTube videos from life coaches who give free practical advice on overcoming negative emotions. Lastly, re-write the negative story you wrote to how you want to positively feel. (2) If your self-esteem or relationship with others is suffering what small steps can you take to overcome this issue? I am aware that no matter what we do some people in our family will not like us or won’t accept us for who we are. Unfortunately, this is something that we cannot change; however, the small step you can take is changing your reaction towards their non acceptance of you. Furthermore, if you have a spiritual connection to God your relationship with God will help you get through the holiday blues. If you are not a member of a church or spiritual community find a church or spiritual community in your area. Use these communities as they can provide counseling when it comes to experiencing depression or grieving the death of a loved one. We believe if you have a relationship with God sometimes secular counseling may not be effective. You may need someone that is very knowledgeable about the word of God to help you cope and implement those teachings into your daily lifestyle and practice. Lastly, a more traditional route is by engaging in something creative or something you love to do. What is it that you are passionate about? Some people are diehard fans of musicals if you are one of them go out and see a holiday musical or play. Or are you more into being creative and crafty? Then enroll in a dance, art, sewing or Zumba class; the list can go on. If your budget isn’t so friendly there are also many inexpensive activities that you can part take in during this time of the year. You will have to check your local event listings for that info such as MeetUp, FreeNYCevents or Facebook groups. Even if you follow these steps to the end you may still feel lonely or depressed which you should not beat yourself up about; let I remind you that you are human and have emotions which can be difficult to deal with at times. How you cope with depression is what you should focus on as you want to be as close to your best self this season as not to be labeled as the grouchy Grinch. We want to stay away from harmful ways of making ourselves feel safe and secure such as self cutting, using drugs and alcohol, isolating ourselves from people, having thoughts of wanting to harm ourselves or others etc. Here at USL, we don’t want you to act out irrationally or impulsively. Your life is way too precious to us! We value you and your life even when others don’t! I understand that some people may be prescribed anti-depressants or mood stabilizers by their licensed physician to help control your thoughts and mood, however, I believe we should be the ones in control of our lives not our medications . If you are able, purchase a small journal to write about your feeling or even join a supportive group which will help you stabilize your mental and emotional health during the holiday season. In addition, some people may have experienced a great loss during the holidays which makes this time of year difficult as you will be more saddened than ever about the loss of your loved one. One of the things that come to mind about coping through the loss of a loved one is by celebrating the person’s life. You can write a poem for them and read it out loud for them to hear, cook their favorite meal or talk out your feelings about them with a supportive friend or in a healthy group setting. I hope by reading this article you will find comfort from your pain and stress. I want you to enjoy and make the most of your holiday whether you spend it alone or with family. Remember, we all have something to be thankful for! Happy Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! 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