Overcome holiday blues with simple steps

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The holidays can be a time of joy, fun, and excitement. They can also be tiring, disappointing and tension-packed, according to Renette Wardlow, human development specialist, University of Missouri Outreach and Extension.

"People sometimes feel let down after the holidays. It is easy to assume these feelings are a sign the holiday did not go well. That might be one explanation. However, that let down feeling may be your body's need to relax and recuperate after a very busy and hectic schedule," said Wardlow.

Negative stressors around the holidays include family arguments, disappointment over gifts, concern about spending too much money, loneliness, not being able to get home for the holiday, not enough sleep and too many people in your home.

"Events that we look forward to can also be stressful. Things like visiting with friends and families, playing with grandchildren that you don't see very often, wrapping gifts, preparing food, decorating the house, eating favorite or special food and the change of routine and pace can all contribute to the stress," said Wardlow.

However, it is important to remember that some people do truly become depressed during the holidays. Holidays are not a magical cure for people who are lonely and sad.

"The best gift you might be able to give someone who is depressed is the assurance that you don't expect them to automatically feel better because it is a holiday. Encourage involvement in holiday activities and events, but give that person some space and permission to leave when they feel they need to," said Wardlow.

For the rest of us, the major concern is stress overload. Stress can be caused by a single event like the disappointment over an unexpected ice storm that keeps family members away from a planned gathering. It can also result from a pile up of little things we enjoy.

"The body needs a chance to recover from stress. Without these rest periods, individuals are more susceptible to emotional tension and physical illness. There is also more risk of a breakdown in family communication," said Wardlow.

While there are some things that are beyond our control, there are things we can do to keep holiday stress in check, Wardlow says:

Keep expectations for the holidays manageable. Do not try to make it 'the best ever'
Make a list and prioritize the most important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Pace yourself. Organize your time
Establish a budget and stick to it. Do not forget to add the cost of all those special holiday foods that you plan to prepare
Enjoy holiday activities that are free such as driving around to look at decorations, or go window-shopping without buying anything
Do not drink too much. Excessive drinking will only make you tired and depressed
Spend time with people who are supportive and care about you. Make new friends if you are alone during special times
Recognize that life brings change. The holidays do not need to be just like they were in the 'good old days' to be enjoyable. Develop some new family traditions. Celebrate the holidays in a way you have not done before
Find time for yourself. Do not spend all your time providing for family and friends

"If the holidays weren't what you expected, talk it over with your family and make changes. On the other hand, if you enjoyed your holidays but still have that let down feeling, try to relax and accept your body and mind's need to recuperate after an exciting time," said Wardlow.

For more information, contact the Barry County Extension Office at 417-847-3161.