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5 Ways to Avoid a Blue Christmas

Christmas is supposedly the Season of Joy, except for many, it steals joy like the Grinch stole Christmas from the Who’s. Holiday distress can be caused by traffic, crowded shopping malls and parking lots, financial struggles, and a calendar crammed with holiday parties and events. In addition, the season shocks us with a dip in temperatures requiring extra time and bundling, the least amount of daylight in a 24 hour period of the entire year, and for many of us, complications such as snow, ice, sleet, and a wintry mix. The real culprit stealing the joy of the season for many is grief: missing a loved one during holiday celebrations, unfulfilled dreams or unmet goals, memories of old hurts, and/or family situations that do not meet the holiday ideal.

When you are feeling a bit Scroogey during the holiday season (or any time), it is extra tempting to eat fatty, sugary foods, eat larger portions, skip workouts and stay in bed longer than necessary. Depression also encourages negative thinking patterns which can lead to personal put-downs, self-doubt, and giving up on goals. They may seem basic, but these tips can help you avoid having a Blue Christmas and hold steady on your goals through the end of the year.

1. Keep moving – Winter weather may have changed your workout plans, but don’t let it cause you to be more sedentary. Get creative. Take new classes at the gym or join a gym. Try winter running; I was shocked how much I enjoy it. Dance while cleaning and baking. Try an at-home workout like Authentic Yoga or P90X.

2. Don’t forget the water – Imbibing at holiday parties can lead to dehydration, but so can the temptation to reach for warm drinks due to lower temperatures. Make sure you are still ingesting enough water every day. It will also help with dry skin, hair, and chapped lips if you stay properly hydrated.

3. Say no – Whether it is another Secret Santa exchange, a cookie exchange party, or a holiday gathering, if it is going to cause distress, just say no. An important part of stress management is setting your own schedule and avoiding unnecessary stress. This time of year generally brings several additional tasks and events and even positive things are stressors. One person can only handle so much. If temptation will be high or you will feel uncomfortable, give yourself permission not to attend an event. If the environment is not emotionally healthy, this therapist is giving you permission not to participate in a gathering – even family gatherings.

4. Be sentimental – Giving thanks is a wonderful and easy way to improve your own mood. Christmas cards give us a great outlet for grateful and sentimental messages and can cost very little. Tell those that matter to you just how much they do. You will feel better in the process, and you will be strengthening your most meaningful relationships.

5. Be selective – In addition to setting your own schedule and saying no to unnecessary stress, you want to say yes to those things that do bring joy. If making Christmas candy reminds you of your grandmother in a positive way, do it (and give it as gifts). If you love watching It’s A Wonderful Life, buy it for yourself and watch it as much as possible. If you have a favorite ornament, display it with prominence. Adding beauty and those things that matter to us, enriching each of our senses, can improve our general sense of well being.

I hope that you find some happiness this holiday season, and remember there is always help available 24 hours per day at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

December 15th, 2010

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