What is it about Christmas that leaves most of us feeling nostalgic?
Is it a notion or a magical childhood for the fortunate filled with wonder looking back as they grow old?
I was one of the lucky ones who had an imagination-inspired childhood – being allowed to express dreams and hopes of what I wanted the world to be. I thank my mother for that.
The warm glow of the holidays increased my over-the-top ideas, as even back then, my mind was a magical hot mess.
But what about those who struggle with overwhelming sadness during the long holiday season?
My first realization that the holidays brought nothing but despair to others was while working at the Napa Police Department in the mid-1980s. I recall the high rate of suicide and death investigations that skyrocketed. After inquiring with my sergeant, he shared that the suicide rate is always astronomical during this nostalgic time of year.
I walked back to my cubicle, almost feeling guilty as I sat back in my chair, being lost in the twinkling lights and tinsel that hung around my fishbowl of a cubicle.
I was still a teenager, learning the evident cruelties that existed in our world and troubled by the vice grip of sadness that chokes millions of people every holiday. I learned something that year – just because the holidays are supposed to be a magical time of year, doesn’t mean it is a time of warmth and celebration for everyone.
If the holidays are a difficult time of year for you – know you are not alone. Know there are small ways you may be able to remedy your pain.
Consider Skipping the Christmas Party
Just because there is a Christmas party, does not mean you must force yourself to get into the holiday spirit. You don’t have to discuss your seasonal sadness if you do not feel up to it – your number one concern is you well-being and mental health. Don’t go.
The worst thing you can do is feel like it is not okay to feel sad – own your feelings. It will be better for you. The holidays will pass and better days are ahead.
Statistics have shown that forcing ourselves to appear cheery when we are slowly dying inside does not work.
Turn Off the Christmas Music
Have you ever listened to a song that can take you back to that very moment in time? If you have, the memory can be almost chilling – whether uplifting or devastating.
Music can be associated with moments in our past and if the holiday music brings sadness, turn on some tunes or a comedic talk show that brings you joy.
A series of studies were performed in which psychologists found that the greater value people placed on feeling happy, the less happy they actually were. It was proven that dwelling on happiness through materialistic desires (commonly associated with the holidays) can increase feeling less adequate and increase the risk of depression. Turn off or change the music.
Reach Out to a Trusted Friend or Professional
Unfortunately, the holidays do bring pressure – pressure to buy presents we cannot afford, pressure to put on our best face in front of family and friends, etc.
You may feel the need to self-isolate as the tasks and expectations feel overwhelming. It is not uncommon for many families to be strained as the dysfunctions rear their ugly heads. Deep breaths – three in and three out.
Give that trusted friend or professional a call and know you are not alone. Reach out. You may be happy that you did. Real change means real talk.
Enjoy Your Own Company with Intention
Instead of telling yourself, there is something wrong with spending time alone – know there is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely.
Walk into nature and take it all in. Take in the fresh air and the sounds that will inform you of the beauties we have been gifted.
If you are able – journal your feelings. Share with yourself those dreams you once had and add a few that you can look forward to. This is YOUR life and you do have the power. No one will do it for you.
I may not have a degree in psychology but life has taught me what works for my happiness and what should be tossed from the realms of dangerous overthinking. My preferred medicine to combat the blues entails reflecting back to the best memories of my life. An immediate warmth of calm floods my heart when I mentally place myself back to a specific place and time.
Think back to one memory that brings you never-ending joy. May your reflections bring you peace, comfort, and hope. Everyone is going through some kind of struggle. Let’s be kind to one another.