December is the month for many things: gift giving, family reunions, parties, and a general message that this is a time where people should be happy. However, for some people it can be a lonely time, and one when the conviviality of others reinforces a sense of isolation. It can also be a challenging time for people who just don’t have the money to meet either their own feelings of generosity or the pressure created by the marketing of consumer products. Despite all the idealized wishes for everyone in the family to get together and get along, there can be an underbelly of tension as some relatives rediscover why they don’t see each other that often throughout the rest of the year as well as some wishing to recapture feelings (real or fantasized) of how things were “back in the old days”.
People are used to having normal routines and the human mind craves regularity which may not mesh well with the increased obligations of the holiday season. Suggestions to cope with holiday stressors are to first realize that the stress and pressure of holidays are real, and that it will soon pass. It’s OK to feel temporarily blue, but try not to fall into a rut. It’s also important not to isolate yourself and to acknowledge that you may need more support during the holidays. It’s also a good idea to be moderate in daily activities, including shopping, socializing, eating, and drinking, and to continue to participate in typical activities such as reading or working out. Anticipate the season, pace yourself, and give yourself permission to put breaks in your schedule.
Kristen UnKauf, PhD