How to Avoid Those Holiday Blues

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Nancy Duncan

Those Holiday Blues

When Elvis sings "I'll have a Blue, Blue Christmas," most of us know just what he means. All during the holiday season music and ads tell us we should be happy and spending time with people we love. Sometimes, that just doesn't happen. During those "blue times" when we are alone, we must dig deep into our experience and find many little ways to enjoy our lives.

I grew up in a Christian culture and so I use Christmas as the name of the key holiday in my life. The same strategies I will share for avoiding the "blues" apply, of course, to the key holidays of other world religions. Most of them apply to people who have no religion, but who live in a culture that celebrates religious holidays.

Planning Ahead to Avoid the Blues

Planning ahead is the most crucial step in avoiding the blues. The first Christmas that I was destined to be completely alone for the Christmas holidays was the first year after my divorce. My daughter was going with her dad to visit his family out of town. I was sad just thinking about the upcoming holidays.

My daughter and I had a special early Christmas with favorite foods and games. On Christmas eve, I invited three close women friends over for a shrimp brunch. We exchanged small presents and talked about our weird families. I ordered several Christmas books, both new and old favorites, which I would enjoy during the quiet times. I began a tradition that I still keep– calling an old friend who is far away and whom I seldom see.

Two gracious Jewish families invited me to have Christmas dinner with them. We had a traditional turkey meal and shared memories of my Christmases and their Hanukkahs. Christmas evening, I sat stroking my cats under a warm quilt listening to a live musical concert on the radio. Before bed, I surveyed the apartment to make sure everything was ready for my family's visit on the following day. I gave thanks as I dressed for bed. The day had been much nicer than I feared it might be. I knew that the next year would probably be very different.

Ten years later, as I struggled to clean up the kitchen and living room messes on Christmas night, I thought about that Christmas when I was without any family. I was happy to tuck my three exhausted children in bed and give thanks for my wonderful family. I also had a twinge of longing for that quiet peaceful day ten years before.

Tips on Avoiding the Blues

So here are my practical tips for keeping a blue Christmas away:

  1. If you know you will be in a situation that is likely to make you "blue," plan ahead, as early as a month, if possible.
  2. Get together with at least one good friend or family member near the holidays so that you can practice caring and being cared for.
  3. Choose both old and new books to have on hand, especially those that renew your faith in your fellow man/woman.
  4. Pick out favorite food treats that you can look forward to eating throughout the week of Christmas.
  5. Have at least one person over to visit, even if it's just for a cup of coffee, so that you have the incentive to spruce up your surroundings. (You don't have to spend a lot of money; a dollar store has everything you need.
  6. Remember that everything changes. Next year could be completely different.
  7. Give thanks on Christmas day for the gifts that you have been given; things like a warm room, health, friends, even though they’re far away, and hope.

So whether you are alone or with friends and family the holidays does not have to be a blue time of year. With a little planning and preparation you can have a wonderful and happy holiday season.

Do You have Tips to Share?

Besides the tips I have listed, do you have any other suggestions to avoid the blues this holiday season? What things have you done in the past to make your holiday festive and bright?

Or maybe you had a friend suffering from the holiday blues. What things did you do to help lift their spirits? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.


Topics:
Social Life and Recreation
Holidays
Personal Reflections
There are currently 5 comments

Re: How to Avoid Those Holiday Blues



I got in to a discussion with my youngest daughter about the true meaning of Christmas. I was depressed over how commercial it seemed to be with ads amed at my children to encourage them to demand all of the toys and games. I invited my then little girl to think of people she liked who might not have a lot of presents and we made cookies and some small gifts for them. Then we delivered them to their doors, rang the bell and ran off. We thoroughly enjoyed being secret Santas for some elderly people who lived alone and weren't going anywhere over the holidays. If you look around, you would be surprised at the opportunities to make the holiday merry for others and how much fun that can be. That was probably over twenty years ago, and I think my daughters have grown in to generous caring adults as a result of our secret santa games.


Re: How to Avoid Those Holiday Blues



I remember when I was growing up and would I read the Little Golden Book retelling of the Christmas story on Christmas Eve and to my delight I found it on Amazon. What I plan on doing this Christmas Eve is sharing the story with my baby grandson and let him look at the pictures.

It's a shame that our society has gotten so far away from the true meaning of Christmas, and just when I think it can't get any worse, as the years progress it gets more ridiculous. Black Friday sets the tone for Cyber Monday with a shopping frenzy that continues until Christmas Eve. On Christmas everyone exchanges gifts only to awaken on the day after Christmas to make a mad dash to the stores to return/exchange said gifts. I much prefer a low key Christmas having dinner with my family and then going home to my quiet apartment, sharing the rest of the day with my dog Mollie.


Re: How to Avoid Those Holiday Blues



I loved your description of your first Christmas alone. And how right, to reinforce that one year's experience doesn't foreshadow Christmas experiences that will follow. Thank you for this post.

In my world right now, I'm finding it odd, working at home three days a week. I'm not bombarded with the buy buy buy mentality. The only music I hear is that of my own choosing. I'm not caught up in the hussle and bussel of the holiday season. It's great, I like the serenity of my life. I like it that the most excitement I experience some days is when I play clicker games with my dog.

But most folks don't have it nearly so good. Many men, women, and children are exposed to, and caught up in, the merriment of the season. But what if one of those people isn't feeling so merry. It might be that teenage girl over there. Her boyfriend just broke up with her. It might be the guy over there who looks like a hugely successful business type. But he didn't close that big deal today. His wife doesn't seem interested in doing the things they've enjoyed doing together for twenty years. He's worried. It might be that elderly woman with the plump round cheeks. The one who always seems to be smiling. Her arthritis might be flaring up. She doesn't know if she'll be able to bake all the goodies for her grandchildren.

If you're out and about over the next few days, take a minute to look around you. You might catch sight of someone who doesn't look so jolly. And this is the worst time of year to not feel so jolly. Take a minute to say a special hello to someone. Offer to help someone carry their heavy bags to their car. And, if you're happy, say a word of thanks.

If you had seen me around this time of year 31 years ago, I would have been one of those unhappy people. For me, though, it was a lot worse than not feeling happy. For it was in this window between Thanksgiving and Christmas that I tried to end my life. My suicide attempt failed and, it was that very act that ushered me into my life with blindness. Today, I can be thankful, even for that.

A few days ago, I published the following post to my personal blog. Why is this time of the year so difficult? http://outofthewhirlpool.com/2013/12/why-is-this-time-of-the-year-so-difficult/


Re: How to Avoid Those Holiday Blues



Nancy,

Thanks for writing this post. I usually spend the Christmas break alone and have found it kind of nice. I know that might sound strange; but the opportunity to just have some down time. Some alone time. Some quiet time-- All of this has been very refreshing for me. It gives me a chance to clear my mind, think over the year past and look forward to the year ahead.

I do agree that Christmas has become too commercialize and I actually don’t do gifts anymore. I stop that years ago. What I do now is give gifts on people’s birthday. I use the holidays as a time to reflect and be more spiritually focused.


Re: How to Avoid Those Holiday Blues



When I was in the restaurant trade, I only had four days off a year. Christmas, Easter, Independence Day and Thanksgiving. I used to love preparing holiday meals, the planning, organizing but I decided that I had had it with spending hours in the kitchen preparing things, setting up and serving a big meal and following that with more hours cleaning up while my family relaxed in front of the TV. We started going out to a fancy restaurant instead. I am pretty much of a person who sees the cup as half full rather than half empty. So one thing I make time to do is think of all of the things I am grateful for in my life. My family, my guide dog, friends, a job, a roof over my head and then I pray for those who don't have as much. I try to push negative thoughts away unless there is a positive action I can take to change them. This year, my husband of forty-two years is needing to use a wheellchair and a walker. The furnace has gone out and needed repair twice since the cold weather hit, my youngest daughter is struggling with back pain because of a bulging disck in her back and a partially paralyzed stomach. My eldest daughter has just moved to Montana with her two pre-school kids. But, my half full glass is that we got health insurance for my husband. We were six round that table and there was a fire in the wood burning stove to help that aging furnace keep up. My aging horse was in the barn with her winter blanket on, my guide dog was thrilled with his bag of greenies and my dear friend brought my retired guide dog for a quick visit on her way to spend the evening with her sister. Life may not be perfect but I have a lot to be grateful for. Unless you can do something about the things weighing you down, try sending them on a holiday and enjoy those things that are in the positive column. Stopping to notice the small wonders and little blessings can add up and give your day some sparkle.


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