If you’re feeling a little down around the holidays, you’re not alone. Many people, especially women, experience a greater susceptibility to depression during this time, and when you’re feeling especially single and isolated it can be even easier to slip into a persistently dark mood.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder,” a depressive state that occurs during the winter months, affects as many as 24 million Americans a year, but while many people attribute end-of-the-year sadness to the “holiday blues,” people are actually more likely to report depression during the months immediately following the holidays.
Psychologists believe that a great number of individuals fall victim to a combination of unhealthy habits and unrealistic expectations that can send them spiraling into post-holiday sadness. But the new year doesn’t have to start in a slump. Here are a few hints to help stave off the “holiday blues” before the season is even underway.
1. Reasonable expectations
The vision most of us have of the holidays is inspired by greeting cards, musicals and television shows – hardly realistic models. Yet most of us have a tendency to build expectations that can’t possibly be satisfied. No one has a picture perfect life, and no one celebrates in precisely the same way. If you’re feeling like you’re missing out because you’re not attached this year, take a look around you. Chances are your partnered friends and family didn’t meet their own expectations of holiday cheer either. Build your expectations around what your life is now, and not what you think it should be. And, for all the hype, it isn’t magic. There are still bills to pay, work to accomplish and problems to solve – let the holidays be a bonus in your life rather than a substitute and you may find you’re able to truly enjoy this time.
2. Don’t break the bank
Psychologists believe that one reason that many people feel blue after the holidays is that they’re suffering the consequences of their holiday spending. The last thing you need at the start of a new year is credit card debt that exceeds the next few paychecks. Once all the wrapping paper’s off and the “thank you’s” are exchanged, the bill can be a little harrowing. Keep perspective when you’re shopping – your loved ones don’t want you to lavish gift upon gift that you can’t really afford.
3. Stay positive
It’s not just about enjoying yourself in the present – when you look back on this holiday season, your memories will be colored with how you feel now. If you spend all your time concerned that you’re minus a plus-one, that’s exactly how you’ll remember it. The holidays are fun – they’re social and distinctly memorable. The holidays are not about one person you love – they’re about all the people you love and who love you! Stay focused on the positive, and you’ll carry those memories with you into the new year.
4. Holiday hook-ups
The pressure to be with someone can lead people to make decisions about their love lives that are less than ideal. When it comes to one night stands, abstinence is an excellent policy. It may feel like intimacy in the moment, but casual sex is a temporary substitute that usually has the opposite effect. Unless you’re truly able to separate sex and emotion, you run the risk of accumulating some extra emotional baggage when you’re already feeling vulnerable. Of course, that’s not the only kind of hook-up that spells disaster. You don’t want to wake up next year in a relationship you don’t really want. It’s just one more resolution you’ll need to keep!
5. Keep giving
Holiday momentum is vicious. And when the whirlwind of gifts, cards, gatherings and well-wishes comes to a sudden halt, it can be a little jarring. If you’re feeling inexplicably lonely after the holidays, remind yourself that the holiday season is only a symbol. The sentiment you shared with friends and family aren’t put away with the lights, and if you need a reminder, call one of them up to relive a few happy moments. Continue to give of yourself after the holidays. Make calls to your loved ones. Send thank you notes. Make gestures of your appreciation. It wasn’t the date that brought you close to those you care about, and you never need an excuse to give of yourself (and receive love in return).
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