Holiday Blues
Depression, Stress, Anxiety + Tips
For Adults 
with the Kid Inside Us!
from
Brownielocks and The 3 Bears
(Midi lyrics at bottom if you want to sing along. It plays 2 times.)

The information on this page is not provided by a professional counselor or psychiatrist.  It is simply my own viewpoints based on experiences with my own family; and how I learned to either "survive" a day with them or simply change my attitude about them. You can agree or disagree. We take no responsibility for how your holiday goes! But we wish you all the best. :)

For anyone with a prolonged emotional depression we suggest you seek professional help.  This page is only for temporary woes during holidays or even family events like weddings, graduations or funerals?

"Roses are things which Christmas is not a bed of."- Ogden Nash.

It is estimated that 90% of us suffer from some kind of holiday fear or stress. This means children as well as adults.  The children are fearful that Santa won't bring what they asked and the parents are fearful they can't afford the cost of the gifts each year as they go up.

Beside the material element of Christmas stress, most holidays and family events put more of a deeper emotional strain on most of us. Why does being with families cause stress if they are suppose to love us?  

The answer to that is one word: Fear!  Fear of their verbal criticism, their lack of approval or their jealousies, bitterness, emotional baggage and in some cases direct mental illnesses.

So what do do?

First, here are some of the common sources for holiday anxiety, stress, and depression:

Divorce

The first factor in causing family stress during holidays or get together is due to our high divorce rate today.   With 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, and some also remarrying forming even greater family complications, the old Normal Rockwell versions of families at holidays for most of us doesn't exist.  The strain comes first on the children to CHOOSE which parent or family they prefer. And the second stress comes from the parents:  (1) The one who won is now under stress to prove they were worthy of winning their child's choice. (2) The parent who lost feels like a failure somehow for not being chosen.  It's a no win situation for the child.

How We Look or How We've Aged?

Let's fact it, we live in a look-focused society.  For many of us, our families do not see us except for special events.  This is now the time you are put under their microscopic eye on whether you've gained or lost weight, gotten more gray hair or now need glasses,  how much you've grown or changed. Many of us HATE to get our pictures taken because it records our aging  year after year. Right? So this also adds to holiday stress.  What to wear for our annual photos!

A sub-topic on this is eating.  For those with eating disorders, this time of year becomes more stressful. For those trying to diet, it also becomes a real challenge.
But there is also the problem of those with health issues.  For example: 
I have now been diagnosed with GERD.  And as much as love mashed potatoes
and gravy, well I just can't eat them now. :(     Heavy starchy mashed potatoes and gravy are one of the big causes of GERD pain for me.  But when you come from a family where "food = love" not having a food item can cause a problem.
For most families if they understand you just CAN NOT eat something that
should be the end of the situation.  For those that have family members who say, "Oh just once a year is not problem." Or..."A little bit is fine," are going to have some big stresses to face at the holiday dinner tables.  

Success or Failure?

This is also a time when most families expcet all members to "report in" on what's been going on in their lives, both personal and professional.  Suddenly it is a contest on who has the most successful life, children or whatever.  What you fear in this scenario is competition. And so the family get together isn't for warmth it's now a contest.

Fear of Faking Love or Joy?

We're all suppose to be decking the halls, stuffing our faces, drinking, eating, and well laughing and smiling.  But what if we just don't feel like it?  Then we do what is expected but not is realistic.  We fake it.  And that creates a tug-of-war of self-esteem inside us.  We are being a fake!  And that causes stress.  The same goes for gifts which is the next issue.

Fear We Got the Wrong Gift!

We first of all fear that we will get someone they won't like or someone already got them.  Then we also have this fear that we will get stuff we don't like.  Or that we will be over-shadowed by a sibling who spent more money on their gift to say mom and day than we did?  For some families, holidays are a great time to play one child against the other.  And thus this creates stress.

What happend to this year?
 Where did it all go?

Another factor in stress is when it becomes a time to analyze how your life has been going or is going and come to the realization that you don't like it. Or that your goals of last year have not been accomplished.  This stress is self-imposed if you are the type of person who must do what he sets out to do.  Or when relatives want to know how the remodeling is coming or whatever happened to so-and so you were dating? You really don't feel like telling them but know you will be asked, and this causes stress.

Work-a-holic Let Down

For those of us who are Type A Personalities and thrive on stress (not fear it) the holidays are a time of blues because work lessons for us.  Many companies shut down for two weeks and those that do stay open have less rustle and bustle due to many employees being on vacation and not there.  So the work-a-holic now loses his fix which is work!  For some this is just as bad as losing a loved one.

Fear of Crowds

Ochlaphobia is the fear of crowds and the Christmas season especially creates more crowds in stores and traffic.  But for some people just being in a crowded home with relatives under your nose is stressful.  And staying at someone else's home causes many to be stressed out too.  

 

Solutions

Now what do we do about all of this?

1.  Change your expectations and attitude.
 First accept the fact that you aren't going to change anyone, so there's no need to let them upset you over one off-comment or a  little thing.  You just have to accept them the way they are. 
Does that mean tolerate  really nasty stuff or continual picking at you?
To me, verbal abuse is wrong, whether it's family or not.
Respect isn't inherited, it's earned.
So, decide before you leave your home what your limits are as far as taking criticisms, digs, and also by which family members.


It's OK to have a verbal fight during a holiday if it means keeping your dignity only!
No I'm not telling you it's OK to fight with people. But, for many of us,
this idea that you have to have peace because it's Christmas is what causes more stress. So, give yourself permission to fight
if you have to. Some relatives assume that they can get away with their snide remarks because you have to allow it for the holiday. That's not true.

2. Age is no excuse.
 I really have a problem with respecting your elders who don't respect you. Some might disagree with me, but I see no justification in tolerating verbal poison from someone who is 76 and yet not from someone who is 16. Age is no excuse to be
verbally abusive IMHO! So when you give yourself permission to put all family members on an equal playing field and let go of age discrimination when it comes to disrespect, you will feel more comfortable.  Remember, this is for adults! You might still be a little child in Great Aunt Hilda's eyes, but in the world you are say 38, an adult and don't have to do what Aunt Hilda says, nor tolerate any snide remarks.
You must also be prepared for the fact that you will not be popular if you stick up for your dignity. I look at it like this.  If they were criticizing you before, then you really didn't have their support and love anyway. So you've lost NOTHING by standing up for yourself.  It's my view, and you choose based on your situation.

3. Don't blame yourself.
 You are not perfect, but you are also not that terrible.
And you are not responsible for making sure everyone else is happy or not.  They are responsible for their own happiness.
You don't have to allow others to embarrass you for their holiday entertainment.  And, you are not responsible if your cousin lost his job and you still are working.

4.  You always have the Choice of "No."
We teach kids to "Just Say No" and yet as adults we seem to want to be people pleasers. When you give yourself permission to say "no" you feel much freeier.  For most of us, most of the time, life is a choice.  You have the choice in your happiness. (Yes, life has it's surprises.)  If you really don't want to go to ____'s house for the holidays then don't.  If being alone and watching "It's A Wonderful Life" on TV will give you more peace and happiness than do it.

And a sub-topic of this goes along with the food issue mentioned above.
Just say "NO" to second helpings or even foods that you can't eat for whatever health issues you have.  If your relatives feel that you are insulting them by not stuffing yourself then that's their problem, not yours.  You should not have to get physically ill to prove your love.  Holidays should be a fun event emotionally as well as physically.  You should go home having memories to treasure, not having to make a lot of trips to the bathroom or take a big dose of Zantac, Prilosec or Nexum etc.

5. ALone is not bad.
 One is not the loneliest number. One is another word for independent.  The world wants to couple us. But if you are not part of a couple this holidays, so what? Go alone. And, if you prefer to be alone, then do it.  Hollywood movies focus on family. But many of us either do not have family members any longer, are living too far away from them, or are not warm and fuzzy with them.  That's reality, not Hollywood.  Do not let movies lay guilt on you for not having their definition of what a family gathering is.  It might be a good time to create your own tradtions, try a new cookie recipe or go sight see (it won't be crowed).

6. Refocus on someone else. 
It's a cliche, I know. But it works.  When you stop thinking of "I, Me, My" and reach out into someone else's world for a bit, you don't think about your world.  I don't mean that you compare your world with others.  Just stop the pitytripping that you've been on about what you don't have and refocus on what you do have to give.

7. Sincerity vs. Curiosity?
One pet peeve of mine is people who ask how you are but really don't care. What they really want is a "report-in" so they can compare it with their life or someone else's.  They are simply curious about what's going on with you, but they really don't care. Nor do they have any empathy for you in your troubles.
In this case, shut up!  If someone you know is like that simply say, "I prefer not to discuss it."  This is much better than a lame, "Just fine."  It proves that you do have a valid life, but that you lack respect  for them to share it. 

8.  Set rules of discussions & dress code before events.
For some families, rather than invite members over via the phone or word-of-mouth, send them an official invitation for the holidays. And with that invitation, include a dress code. This way if Aunt Hilda shows up in a mink, you all know she did it on purpose to show off!  (Unless your dress code was formal?).
Or you could also include a form in which you fill out with what you DO NOT want to discuss while amongst family and friends. Then when the event happens, all of these forms are read by everyone there so that they know before hand what NOT to ask you about. Or it might be "I do not want to be in family pictures."
This will save you from being bugged later on. Another one: NO gossip!
Nothing like the holidays to tear those relatives apart who didn't come, right?
Thus, imagine what they say about you when you're not around.
Therefore, set the rules ahead of time...no talking about others.
If they have nothing to talk about besides other people, that will be a new challenge!

9.  Do Shopping by mail order or via Internet.
 For those of you who hate shopping in real stores with lines and parking and traffic hassles, then think about using catalogs or the internet?  What you pay in shipping, you save in stress. And in some cases you won't pay a sales tax.

10. Swallow your pride.
One final tip is to simply swallow your pride and hold your tongue and just vegetate through the entire family affair silently saying to yourself, "It will all be over in XX Hours."

OK this is looking at it like a prison sentence, but then if it really is in your eyes, then serve your annual time (with the family) and then leave!

Since we do not know which Holiday you entered from, here are 3 basic return links:

Midi is "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?"
Plays only 2 times.  If you missed the start, go out and re-enter this page.
Below are the lyrics if you want to sing along and don't feel like a Christmas tune. ;)

WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKENHEARTED
by Jimmy Ruffin - 1966

As I walk this land with broken dreams
I have visions of many things
Love's happiness is just an illusion
Filled with sadness and confusion,
What becomes of the broken hearted
Who had love that's now departed?
I know I've got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
Maybe.
The fruits of love grow all around
But for me they come a tumblin' down.
Every day heartaches grow a little stronger
I can't stand this pain much longer
I walk in shadows
Searching for light
Cold and alone
No comfort in sight,
Hoping and praying for someone to care
Always moving and goin to where
What becomes of the broken hearted
Who had love that's now departed?
I know I've got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
Maybe.
I'm searching though I don't succeed,
But someone look, there's a growing need.
Oh, he is lost, there's no place for beginning,
All that's left is an unhappy ending.
Now what's become of the broken-hearted
Who had love that's now departed?
I know I've got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
I'll be searching everywhere
Just to find someone to care.
I'll be looking everyday
I know I'm gonna find a way
Nothings gonna stop me now
I'll find a way somehow
I'll be searching everywhere

 

 

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