Everyone knows that as it gets colder and colder outside, it is supposed to get warmer inside our homes. Not only in terms of turning the heat or fireplace on, but our houses are supposed to be full to the brim with holiday cheer. In movies we see people singing in shopping malls and families reflecting over their year together by a picturesque fireplace. However, a lot of people don't feel that holiday cheer and it is an isolating feeling to think that everyone in the world is happy but you. The Holiday Blues are a feeling of sadness and loneliness that are unique to the holiday season, and we wanted to get you some tips on how to notice the signs in yourself, your partner, or your child; what kinds of things may be causing it, how to try your best to cope with it, and how to help avoid triggers.
If the symptoms go beyond the holidays or are making a massive impact on your life seek out a mental health service provider, if you don't know where to start looking for one check out our Find a Provider page or reach out to one of our FREE and CONFIDENTIAL Family Support Partners for help on finding one for you or a loved one.
Some of the main causes:
The holidays are supposed to be a fun time, but for many, it is a time riddled with stress and anxiety. Especially for parents and primary caregivers raising a child who is struggling. You may ask yourself what is it about the holidays that make me sad? It seems to be the perfect whirlwind of things that can cause the holiday blues. One cause is the stress associated with the holiday season. A huge stressor is the fact that we want to make every holiday season the most perfect it possibly can be for our family members. We may overextend our time, our energy, and our wallets to try and create a "perfect holiday."
It is also a season of comparison. Perhaps your neighbor has better decorations than your family does, or your sister in law was able to afford more gifts for her children and this can make parents feel like their children are not going to have as good of a holiday as other children. We have an unrealistic image of what the holiday season should be and we often take it upon ourselves to try and create that for our loved ones. This need to feel like it has to be perfect contributes to the holiday blues when you feel like your holiday has fallen short.
Especially this year, it can make us sad to celebrate the holidays without some of our loved ones. Whether this means loved ones who have passed away or ones you are not able to see because of travel restrictions, the nostalgia of the holidays can make us miss certain people. If you have recently lost a loved one it can make you feel guilty for enjoying the holidays without them. It may be even harder to get into the "holiday spirit" without your favorite holiday traditions that involve the individuals that you are missing this year.
According to NAMI: 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. As a parent or primary caregiver raising a child who is struggling it is a great time to check in with your children about how their mental health is doing right now. Ask them how they are doing with the holidays rapidly approaching, especially during the pandemic. Let them know that you are always there for them to talk to about their mental health and encourage them to speak to their therapist about any sadness they are feeling around the holidays. If your child does not have a therapist and you would like to get them one check out our Find a Provider Page for some help on finding one.
If you are experiencing the holiday blues you may feel consistent sadness. It can be hard for you to feel motivated to do anything, let alone partake in holiday activities. This sadness is often coupled with an overwhelming feeling of loneliness, even if you are with the ones you love. It can cause you to withdraw and not get joy out of things that typically give you joy. It is possible your sleep schedule could be messed up because of the utter exhaustion you are feeling. This could mean that you are sleeping much more than you normally do or you can't fall asleep at all. All of this leads to an overall sense of irritability; this leads to a cycle of being irritated by something, then feeling guilty about being irritable.
Potential triggers to avoid, and what can help the holiday blues:
This holiday season especially give yourself some grace. The year we have all just endured with health anxiety, job insecurity, distance learning, and so much more has taken a toll on every single person. Do not let this holiday season add to your plate of stress. Set boundaries for yourself and for your immediate family that makes your mental health a priority. Make those boundaries with your time, your finances, and your energy, and don't let anybody interfere with them.
We at the Parent Alliance have heard that many parents and primary caregivers are feeling the need to overcompensate with more gifts than normal because their children are missing out on traditional holiday activities become of the pandemic. We want to encourage you to try not to feel this way. Every child is in the same boat when it comes to missing out on things and more gifts will not give them back the activities they are missing. This year is not the norm and before we know it the holidays will back to what we have always known them to be. Instead of stretching your wallet and further creating stress for yourself, opt for more memory-making moments and less physical gifts. Check out our article on Managing 2020 Holiday Expectations for some ideas on how to make memories this holiday season.
Another way to help yourself or someone you love through the holiday blues is to take the time to take care of yourself. Avoid excessive alcohol use and try and fit in ways that you enjoy being active. Whether that is a family walk, a walk by yourself to clear your mind, or an online exercise class this will help you to feel better as a whole. Always take your mental health as seriously as your physical health and plan ways to practice self-care. Listen, we know this is easier said than done. As a parent raising a child who is struggling it can feel like you don't even have enough time to breathe let alone practice self-care. We encourage you to think past the bubble baths and face masks that society deems as self-care. If you like those ways to relax then practice them, but check out this article on some ways you can practice self-care as a caregiver, many of which do not require a large amount of time.
In theory, nostalgic holiday movies, songs, and traditions can jog happy memories and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. In practice, it can bring up feelings of grief and sadness. If old family movies, songs, or photos do more harm than good avoid them during the holiday season. Grief is a complicated emotion and everyone feels it differently. Check-in with yourself, and your children about how they are feeling if you are grieving a loved one. Encourage your children (and yourself) to try not to feel bad about celebrating the holiday without them. A way to make yourself feel better is to sit down with your family and be thoughtful about celebrating the loved one(s) you are missing. It may feel good to make a favorite recipe of theirs or do something in their honor. Be open and honest with your family about whether or not celebrating a loved one will make you feel happy or even sadder.
Above all remember that if you feel the holiday blues you are not alone and if a family member of yours experiences it, remind them of this too. Reach out to one of our Family Support Partners here to have someone who will listen to you and not judge you if you are struggling through your own holiday blues, or you are struggling to help your child through it.