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Blue into Silver... or... How to Overcome the Holiday Blues

Loads of Latkes.

Hordes of Holly.

Oodles of cookies.

The holidays, whichever you celebrate- or don’t- are upon us.

I talk with people who are so busy that they barely have time for a conversation.

I pass people in the grocery store who are so stressed I fear getting run over by their cart.

On the other hand, the wonderment in the little girl’s eyes as she waits to see Santa is worth the yearly ritual. That’s what this season is all about: magic, connection and giving.

For those who have the ability, the life situation, the family and friends, to participate in the best of this holiday season, it is a sheer delight. Any stress, worry, traffic and financial burden, seem to be outweighed by the joy, love and beauty of the season.

But what about those who are alone, or who have experienced loss in the last year? What happens to those of us who can’t participate as we have in the past? That form of loneliness can feel unbearable at this time of year.

How did the Red and Green get Blue?

We hear about the holiday “blues”, the sadness that seems to come in from no where and then lay like a fog over all that you experience at this time of year. Anyone can encounter it—tearfulness, lack of enthusiasm for the holiday events and preparations, the feeling of being alone and isolated, even though there may be plenty of people around. Seniors, however, are particularly susceptible to the blues because of the many changes they experience, such as a recent retirement, moving to a smaller home, and/or loss of special relationships through death, disability or relocation.

What causes the blues? We know that even though it may seem that they show up uninvited, out of no where, they actually have roots in our present and past. All of holidays past, that we used to recall fondly, are now seen with a different hue.

What causes the blues? We can learn a thing or two from our old friend ….Scrooge.

Oh, Those Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas past visited Scrooge to remind him of days long ago. We all carry those memories- some good, some not so happy.

I can remember some sensational holiday times, but there were also disappointments when things didn’t turn out as I had hoped. One year, I was delighted and surprised by special friends driving from New England to joining us for our holiday celebration; we hadn’t seen each other in years, making their visit a particularly glorious gift. On the other hand, I still vividly recall the year that everyone had the flu. I mean EVERYone, family and close friends, was sick, except me. All of the festivities had to be cancelled and I spent the holiday season caring for the ill. Both sets of memories can generate sadness: missing the good times and re-processing the bad.

The older we become, the harder it is to put memories in their place. It’s way too easy to reminisce about the ski slopes and then feel regretful that we no longer go skiing over New Year’s. The fond memories of gathering around the tree can get lost in the emerging sadness of missing people who are no longer with us, either through death or relocation. The Ghost of Christmas’ past is a major contributor to holiday blues.

And the Ghost of Christmas Present…

Adding to those historical challenges is the Ghost of Christmas Present, the reality of life now. Any of the hardships that we experience day to day are exaggerated during the holiday season. At this gift-giving time, we become more acutely aware of our limited finances; our physical limitations can get in the way of participating in all of the goings- on that enliven the holiday season; we receive fewer invitations to events because we are more isolated than in the past, which makes us even more disconnected. In addition, to be really truthful, at times, we don’t actually enjoy some of the music, food and lights that fill the air during this season. They all can all be just too noisy, busy and cumbersome!

We won’t even invite the Ghost of Christmas Future, with all of our worry about what tomorrow might bring. The past and the present stir up enough to turn this holiday season from red and green into blue.

Turn Blue into Silver

Once the Ghosts leave and we acknowledge that we are feeling a little bit sadder than usual and that we are struggling with a desire to withdraw from some holiday activities, we can then open the door to try out some recommendations to cure the blues. To enliven our spirits, here are some ideas that might help. These ideas are good “medicine” for all of us—blue or not!

  • Sit with someone and talk about memories

  • Bake cookies

  • Add lights all over the place

  • Exercise

  • Go out into the sunshine.

  • Eat well. In spite of the earlier suggestion to bake cookies, which is a lot of fun, cutting down on sugar can be an important ingredient to fighting depression.

  • Sing—alone or with others

  • Do something nice for someone else

Giving is such significant part of the holidays, AND it helps all of us feel better about ourselves. Psychologists note that feeling good about one’s self is an important defender of depression. Giving, therefore, is a win-win all the way around! You and I can both feel good when either of us give!

The holidays can be a glorious time, or a difficult season. Preparation can make all the difference in the world. I like to think of the lights of the season as a reminder to put a little extra energy into lighting up my life and the lives of those around me with whom I share the season. Giving to others makes me feel good and helps with fighting the blues- both mine and theirs.

This holiday season, let’s create white lights- not blue.

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