For many people, this time of year is magic. Whether you’re Christian, Jewish or Muslim, there are traditions and celebrations galore. The smell of pine, fir and spruce is in the air from Christmas trees big and small. There are lights, whether strung along the edges of buildings or woven through trees or brightly shining menorahs in house and store windows. Incredible aromas float out at us from bakeries everywhere. Gingerbread cookies and holiday cakes, all fresh from the oven, tempt us. Lots of beautifully wrapped gifts fill store windows and of course, there are the people. People smiling, laughing, talking and seeming to be having the most wonderful time at the most wonderful time of the year (as the famous Christmas song goes).
In reality however, this glossy surface is just that. Underneath, many people feel very anxious and depressed. Some of these people suffer with depression and anxiety all year, and others seem to feel it only during the holidays. This often continues well into the new year. In either case, there are things you can do that will help.
According to Dr. John Sharp, a psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, there are a number of great tips to help you feel better during the holidays. He recommends spending some time figuring out how to take care of yourself.
He recommends routines that are restorative in nature. If you schedule activities like napping (yes, napping) or reading a book, and actually write them down (I’m a big proponent of writing things down) then you are more likely to actually do them. I’d like to point out that these things are free, and don’t require anyone else to do them with you. They give you a break from stressful shopping or partying and let you have some space to breath.
Dr. sharp suggests deciding what basics are your priorities to help you get through the holidays. I think this is a very wise idea. For so many of us, we feel overwhelmed with responsibilities to others at the holidays. Getting the perfect gifts, preparing holiday meals or foods to bring to celebrations, planning fun activities for our families, arranging vacations, often leave us depleted and miserable.
Try to think about what few things are really important to you to accomplish. Then decide what you need to do to make those few things happen. Make a list and put it up where you’ll see it every day, often. Maybe the bathroom mirror or the fridge?