Sarah Yahiro, Live Well Trainer
As the holidays approach it can be a time of joyous celebration or the beginning of annual anxiety and holiday blues. Surveys by the American Psychological Association and National Alliance for Mental Illness find that for many people this time of year is associated with higher levels of stress, increased feelings of loneliness, and unrealistic expectations.
Some causes of the holiday blues can be avoided by finding a new perspective. People may feel that they have to be happy during this time of year. David Mischoulon, MD, PhD, director of the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital says, “Many people feel pressured to do things or to have to enjoy themselves during the holidays, perhaps because they worry that their friends or coworkers may think there is something strange about them if they do not. This can lead to pressure to have fun.” Dr. Mischoulon states, “Above all, people should give themselves permission to opt out of the holidays if they want to.” If you want to skip the celebrations and traditions altogether, that’s okay. Do keep in mind that if you are feeling down for extended periods of time (not just the holiday blues) it is important to seek help
Approach the holidays with a playful, childlike spirit
If you decide to celebrate, approach the holidays with a playful, childlike spirit. Decorating cookies, singing Christmas carols, making a snow angel and opening a thoughtful gift can be enjoyable holiday activities. We may not be able to do all of those activities, but we can approach them with a positive attitude.
Play and celebration are not just for kids – they are vital parts of the human experience. Play helps us to connect to others, get physically active and can teach us new skills. As adults, we tend to avoid play, but it’s time to reintroduce ourselves to it. Geriatric psychologist Linda Ercoli, PhD, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior states, “Stress reduction is just one of the many benefits to play. Play also generates internal positivity, helps us laugh, and to just have fun.” The holidays are an excellent time to welcome play back into our lives.