When everyone else is merry and seems happy and you feel sad it is easy to compare how people look on the outside to how you feel on the inside. It can be very isolating. This time of year a lot of people are lonely. In fact one in three adults describe themselves as painfully lonely in a new psychological study. The study was co-authored by loneliness expert John Cacioppo, a pioneer in the field of social neuroscience whose earlier work revealed insights that changed how we think about what it means to be lonely. For example, we know from Cacioppo’s research that loneliness exists apart from how many social contacts a person may have.
“It’s possible to be lonely in any crowd, virtual or physical, because loneliness is an intense feeling of social isolation that persists despite the actual number of people in one’s life.” (Forbes)
The combination of loneliness and sadness and high expectations can be very difficult especially for caregivers. Sadness is a truly personal feeling. What makes one person feel sad may not affect another person. Typical sources of holiday sadness include, stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, financial burdens, and relationship issues.
Sadness or depression at holiday time can be a reaction to the stresses and demands of the season. In other cases, people may feel depressed around the winter holidays due to a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as seasonal depression. This is a type of depression that tends to occur (and recur) as the days grow shorter in the fall and winter. It is believed that affected people react to the decreasing amounts of sunlight and the colder temperatures as the fall and winter progress, resulting in feelings of depression.
So, there are a lot of different factors that contribute to the Holiday Blues. Some suggestions to cope with them are:
Talk to someone about their experience. Often we feel like we are the only ones having negative feelings and are surprised to find out that other people feel the same way.
Start a new tradition all your own. If the expectations of cooking a big meal are too much order out. If hanging out with family is too much take a walk or go see a movie. Do what makes you feel good.
Try a full spectrum sun lamp for a few hours a day.
Start a mindfulness practice. Even if it is a few deep breaths a few times a day.
For more holiday stress tips watch Lourdes Lorenz on ABC 13.