For many people, the holidays can be anything but wonderful. So, we asked Dr. Molly McVoy, program director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cleveland’s UH Case Medical Center, for ideas to help the holiday blues, from coping with holiday stress to holiday depression.
5 Tips for the Holiday Blues
1. Manage expectations.
“There are so many expectations around the holidays and it’s hard to meet all of them, which can be disappointing,” says McVoy. She notes that a key prevention for the holiday blues is to set realistic expectations in advance. “Look at what’s happened in years past, and match your expectations to your prior reality,” recommends McVoy. So if your mother-in-law tends to complain about everything, then she’s going to complain about everything this year too. Don’t let it ruin your day.
2. Note to self: there is no perfect.
“Anyone who is not in the ‘ideal’ family may feel more down around the holidays,” says McVoy. “It’s more obvious around this time of year because the ideal is splashed everywhere.” This can be particularly true for families dealing with divorce, illness, or other difficulties. Remember that the perfect nuclear family enjoying each and every moment of the holiday season is more marketing myth than actual reality (despite what you see on social media).
3. Stick to a schedule (as much as possible).
Staying up too late. Eating too much rich food. Not getting to the gym. The toll the holidays take on our physical well-being can lead to crankiness. McVoy recommends families stick with their regular routines as much as possible.
4. Take your Vitamin D.
The lack of sunlight during the winter can cause some people to feel down. Add in the stress of the holidays, and it just makes matters worse. “If you have a hard time in the winter in general, it can be helpful to take vitamin D supplements or do light box therapy,” suggests McVoy. If you or your teenager often feel down during the winter months, then you may want to talk to your doctor about Seasonal Affective Disorder.
5. Give yourself a break.
“We have a lot of ‘shoulds’ for our holidays,” notes McVoy. “‘It should go this way. It should go that way.’ The more of those you have in your head, the more stressful it will be because it probably won’t go that way.” So this year, why not change up some of your shoulds? The world will keep turning and you may just enjoy yourself.