Beating the Doldrums, the Holiday Blues, the Winter Blahs
Winter is a hard time of year for lots of people. Financial
problems loom for those who have lost jobs or who over-spent at Christmas, and
money worries can cause serious problems with stress, such as
- Difficulty controlling emotions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Heart problems
Even for people who don’t have financial
worries, winter can bring on the doldrums. It’s cold, it’s dark and many of us
feel like we have no energy. We want to go home from work and hibernate.
But there’s so much people can do to get out of the winter
blues. Here are a few things that might help you.
If you’ve lost your job…
Losing a job is right up there on the list of stressful
life events. It’s normal to feel worried, but it won’t help anybody, especially
you, if you sink into the depths of despair. Instead:
- Set up a routine for yourself every day. There’s no
stranger feeling than waking up in the morning and having nowhere to go. Get
up early, get dressed and go out for tea or coffee and read the paper. Make a
list of the things you can do that will make your day productive, and then try
to accomplish all the things on your list.
- If you were involved in a big layoff, stay in contact
with the other people who lost their jobs. Meet once a week or so. This can
help reduce the sense of isolation that some people feel when they lose their
- Use this time to get exercise. You don’t have to join an
expensive gym, or any gym at all. Put on your warm clothes and go outside and
walk. Don’t worry—you’ll warm up quickly. Exercise helps reduce stress and
increase feelings of well being, and you need that right now. If you do belong
to a gym, be sure to use it. You can probably go there during hours when it’s
not so busy. Take advantage of that while you can.
- In the time that you’re not looking for a job, see
whether you can stop to appreciate the extra time you have. If you have a
spouse and children, be sure to enjoy time with them. If reading relaxes you,
spend time doing that.
If the holidays are difficult for you…
The holidays bring out everyone’s insecurities and hopes.
Parents of grown children often want things to be like they were when the kids
were little. The grown children themselves often wonder why Christmas isn’t as
much fun as it was when they were young. We still want the holidays to make us
feel the same way they made us feel as children.
When we were kids, we were able to ignore an uncle’s
inappropriate behavior or the tensions between adults. Now it’s disappointing
when family dinners and other gatherings make us feel angry, lonely or depressed
at a time when we think we’re supposed to be happy.
Is there a way to get out of this cycle, which brings a lot
of stress to thousands of people each year?
Accept the facts. When you accept that the holidays
are not going transform your family members magically so that they behave in a
way that you want them too, you’ll feel better. Your expectations will be
realistic, and you won’t feel so upset and disappointed during each holiday
Can you change these weird family dynamics? No. You can
only change the way you respond to them.
Practice feeling compassion and empathy. Try to let
things roll off your back a little. Don’t waste time getting into arguments that
nobody ever “wins” anyway. Lots of smiling and staying away from the tension are
probably a better way to go.
If someone says something especially hurtful to you, a good
response might be, “Wow, that really hurts my feelings.” That’s a lot better
than lashing out with an angry response, and it might cause the other person to
stop and think a little.
Start your own traditions. If you don’t
enjoy the family traditions that have been in place for years or even decades,
it’s time to start your own. If you have a spouse and children, sit down
together and talk about what the holidays mean to you. Ask yourselves if the
current family traditions could use a change of pace.
Find a way for your immediate family to celebrate together,
even if it means you’ll miss someone else’s tradition. And then gently explain
to the disappointed ones, “Sorry, we’ve decided to create some traditions of our
own. We’re going to stay home as a family on Christmas afternoon.”
If you start to feel depressed as the days get shorter
There is an actual disorder related to decreasing amounts
of daylight. It’s called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The condition
affects women more than men, and adults far more than children or teens.
- Lethargy or sluggishness in the winter months
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
- Craving sweets and carbohydrates
Treatments for SAD include:
- Light therapy, an effective treatment for many SAD
sufferers. It involves sitting under a bright light box for at least 30
minutes every day.
- Eating a well balanced diet.
- Getting an hour of daylight time outside every day.
- Taking an anti-depressant medication.
If you think SAD is affecting you, talk with your doctor to
rule out other possible conditions and to find the best treatment for you.
Reach out for help
Whatever the reasons for your troubles this season, be sure
to reach out for help instead of staying home and keeping things to yourself.
Reach out to friends—schedule pot-luck dinners, game nights or anything else you
enjoy. If your relationship with your spouse seems like it’s getting stale,
express your feelings. Share more time together. Share your thoughts with each
other. Set up special times for “dates” and other times to enjoy each other.
Finally, if nothing seems to help, it’s a good idea to seek
treatment. A therapist can listen objectively to your problems and help you come
up with solutions that can make more sense of the things you’re struggling with.