As winter days darken and end-of-year deadlines grow, the holidays aren’t merry and bright for everyone. For some, December can be the most difficult time of year, and having a negative attitude or feeling depressed is not limited to people diagnosed with clinical depression—it can happen to anyone.
Here are three ways to dodge the December doldrums.
Set realistic expectations. The perfect holiday we dream of in our minds is often unrealistic. Psychiatrist Mark Sichel, author of Healing From Family Rifts, told the HuffPost, “People have this anticipation or fantasy of the holiday that you would see on TV…Actually, it’s never exactly as people anticipate and it’s often disappointing.”
Dale Carnegie said, “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” If you’ve experienced serious setbacks this year or anything else that’s causing symptoms of depression, you can combat them by focusing on everything for which you have to be thankful—a favorite family member or friend, a job you love, your home, etc. Setting goals for the New Year is an exercise that may bring you hope as you contemplate a fresh start. “Realize that the holidays do end ― and take stock of what you can be grateful for,” says Sichel. “Having gratitude is probably the best antidote against depression.”
Do only what you can. Perfectionism is unrealistic, no matter how much you plan and are proactive. It’s simply impossible to attend every holiday party, meet all end-of-year deadlines, plan the perfect celebration and accomplish all of those other tasks necessitated by the holidays. The fear of not being able to get everything done can cause serious anxiety and send your mood spiralling downward. Be realistic about what you’re able to do, even if it requires a ‘do not’ list. For example, if you normally buy and wrap gifts for all of your co-workers, consider baking for everyone instead or simply write them personal holiday greetings. They’ll still know you care, and you won’t rob yourself of time for other activities.
Take care of yourself. Dale Carnegie’s 3rd principle for How to Stop Worrying and Start Living is, ‘Remind yourself of the exorbitant price you can pay for worry in terms of your health.’ With so many things to do and all of the people for whom many of us are responsible, it’s easy to put ourselves last. Truth be told, if we aren’t healthy, happy, and well-rested, it’s impossible to care for others. The only way to be an ambassador of goodwill to others is to start with yourself. Carve out time for your favorite restoration activity whether it’s scheduling a massage or seeing a movie with friends. Relaxing or connecting with friends during your downtime will help thwart the holiday blues.