While you might believe that you suffer alone when in the midst of a bout of seasonal blues, know this: Over 15 million people have Social Anxiety Disorder and over 25 million more have other anxiety problems on top of that. In total, anxiety affects over 40 million people in the United States. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that depression and anxiety could affect anybody’s enjoyment of the holiday season.
Preventing holiday mood swings keeps them from wrecking your halls and plowing through each holiday celebrant’s dream of dashing through the snow to a picture-perfect, Norman Rockwell Christmas with friends and family.
That cliché of the entire extended family gathered around the table, smiling in comfort and joy plays a major role in your feelings. The pressure you feel to smile and pretend to be elated while socializing with your overly-political uncle or that gossipy second cousin may be exactly what triggered your Grinchy mood in the first place. As a result, the pressure to appear joyous brings us to our first tip for keeping your moods singing instead of swinging:
1. Give Your Time to Positive People Only
No one owes toxic people a single millisecond of time. No matter what anyone says, you have no obligation to spend a minute longer than it takes to greet the other guests at the event. No explanation needed: simply hand over any gifts you brought with you and excuse yourself to attend another event. Toxic people delight themselves when they have succeeded in robbing your already overtaxed energy and they rarely change their behavior from one gathering to the next. Almost as if they have cemented their worst self to their forehead, toxic people live to witness that moment when other people blow a gasket, sully their respected status and flush their self-confidence down the commode.
Feel no guilt about walking away from them as soon it becomes necessary. If that freedom to depart in peace does not ease your anxiety and lighten your mood, feel no shame in following our next tip.
2. Cultivate Healthy Outcomes
Cultivate healthy outcomes for yourself. Get some rest and relaxation. Sleep if and when able to find a quiet, comfortable, private space. Eat appropriate amounts of food at each meal. Avoid overeating all the delightful holiday fare… but refrain from berating yourself about your intake.
For example, if you have no desire to indulge in any helpings of Aunt Sarah’s famous double-chocolate, absolution-needed-from-the-first-bite cheesecake slices that she has iced to resemble snow angels, ask her for the recipe instead. While she’s writing it down, exclaim over the intense flavor, rich filling and crunchy base. Claim that you can’t wait to bake a cheesecake or two yourself.
Let her wrap an entire cheesecake in red cellophane with green ribbon curls and swear on the family dog that you’ll eat it the moment you reach home. Aunt Sarah doesn’t ever need to discover that you stopped at the Lyman Home for Seniors on the way home to share the love and give away her culinary largesse.
Finally, if holiday mood swings exhaust you, strangle you in the ribbons of depression or block you from gathering with people whose company you normally enjoy, try these additional recommendations from the Mayo Clinic:
3. Light Therapy
Seasonal mood changes result, in part, from the shorter daylight hours in the fall and winter. Cold weather drives everyone indoors, and even when outside, winter clothing prevents what little sunlight you might encounter from reaching your body. Replace some of that missing sunlight with light therapy. Replace a few bulbs in your home with grow lights and spend at least fifteen minutes at a time basking in their glow.
4. Talk About It, Talk About It, Talk About It
If that advice sounds like the chorus of a disco-era song, you called it correctly. Talk to yourself, trusted friends and your family doctor rather than suffering in silence or blowing up in a family or community event. Identify the source of any negative feelings and heightened self-criticism, along with the belief that others have judged you and found you lacking. Talk through those feelings with a professional to help you create strategies to deflect and disrupt those negative thoughts before they paralyze you.
Last of all, if these tips haven’t helped you reduce your holiday mood swings, consult your family physician. You may need to restore your body’s chemical balance through medication. Your doctor can advise you on available therapies or provide you with a referral to a psychiatrist.
Although many people still try to stigmatize those who use medication, providing yourself with something your body does not produce in correct amounts should be up to you, your doctor and no one else.
What tips have you found helpful in your efforts to remain balanced through the holidays?