Thanks for subscribing! Please check your email for further instructions.
By Herb Weiss, contributing writer on aging
The holiday season can be a double-edge sword.
For some, it brings feelings of warmth and joy, even closeness and belonging to
family and friends, but for others it produces, extra stress and anxiety and
feelings of isolation and depression. Increased demands and family obligations
during Christmas through New Year’s Eve, from last minute shopping for gifts,
baking and cooking, cleaning and hosting parties, getting the Christmas cards
mailed, and even having unrealistic expectations can bring about the holiday
blues. Although holiday stress triggers depression, it can also bring about
headaches, excessive drinking and overeating and even difficulty in sleeping.
During her 24-year career as a licensed
behavioral health therapist, Holly Fitting, LMHC, LCDP, Vice President of
Addiction and Residential Services at the Providence-based The Providence
Center (TPC), has assisted many of her clients develop strategies to cope with
the holiday blues. “It’s quite common,” says Fitting, who oversees over 20
programs at TPC.
Traveling to visit families, flight delays,
long lines to check in, bad weather can add to your stress, too, says Fitting,
even anticipating topics conversations that may lead to arguments and events
that may not even happen.
Pre-planning Potential Family Conflict
Fitting says that preplanning potential issues
that you might encounter at a family gathering can helpful up to a point if you
just don’t over plan. “If you try to figure out every possible scenario that
might occur, this may only heighten your anxiety,” she adds. So, if you think
your sibling will bring up political topics you may not want to discuss, you
can plan to say, “Let’s talk about this topic after the holidays,” suggest
Fitting. Or just don’t sit near them at the dinner table to avoid the
conversation, she adds.
It’s okay to say “no” if you choose not to
attend holiday parties or family gatherings, says Fitting, especially if you
feel stressed outgoing. To keep feelings from being hurt and reducing potential
problems it might be better to go but limit the time there, she says.
Also, you can choose not to take on the
responsibilities and commitments to bring trays of treats, says Fitting. But if
you choose to bring dessert, take the easy road. Instead of baking everything
from scratch, buy a platter of cookies or a store-bought cake to lighten your
Combating the Holiday Blues
Maintaining healthy habits can also help you
beat the holiday blues. “Try to eat healthy meals before holiday gatherings and
minimize sugary desserts and alcohol consumed at the celebrations,” states Fitting.
During the holidays, “continue your exercise routine, even if it is a scaled
down version and get plenty of sleep,” she suggests, noting that this will help
to reduce anxiety and depression, sleep better and keep the weight off.
Out of control holiday spending and
last-minute shopping can increase holiday stress, too, says Fitting who
suggests these tips to reduce gift costs: “Stick to your set budget to avoid
guilt about buying gifts you cannot afford. Use coupons and sales to decrease
spending costs. Agree to set the spending limits to no more than $ 20. Rather
than buying presents for ten different people, play Secret Santa and each
family member just buys one gift. Set the price and rules ahead of time and
make sure everyone understands them. Or rather than buying presents collect
cash to make a donation to an agreed upon charity,” she recommends.
Standing in long lines in the shopping mall
can quickly become a source of stress, says Fitting. “One good solution is to
double up and invite a family member or friend to shop. Waiting in a long line
alone always feels like it takes twice as long as when you have someone to talk
You can get into the holiday spirit by
starting a new tradition for yourself and family that you will enjoy, suggests
Fitting. “Volunteering to help out with a Toys for Tots Drive, or at a soup
kitchen. Giving back by volunteering can really help to boost your spirits,”
Finally, Fitting says, “accept the fact that
there will be mishaps along the way during the holidays. Try laughing at the
unanticipated events and this certainly will help to reduce the undue stress
Getting Professional Help When Needed
As Christmas and New Year’s approach, and you
cannot shake the holiday blues, “it is important to be honest with yourself and
your feelings. But, if the feelings of sadness still persist then you should go
speak to a professional. Sometimes going for therapy to talk through your
feelings will help to alleviate depression and anxiety. Sometimes prescribed
medication along with therapy is necessary to help reduce symptoms.”
For those suffering the holiday blues, call The Providence Center at (401) 276 4020 or go to http://www.providence center.org.
Previously printed in The Call
Weiss has enjoyed a distinguished 36 year career in journalism, earning a
national reputation as an expert on aging, health care and medical issues. Over
630 articles that he has authored or coauthored have appeared in national,
state and local publications. He is also the author of “Taking Charge:
Collected Stories on Aging Boldly”.
has served on the Rhode Island Advisory Commission on Aging. Today, Herb’s
weekly newspaper column appears in the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket call, two
North Rhode Island daily newspapers, and will now run on occasion in
RINewsToday.com. Herb and his wife, Patty Zacks, reside in Pawtucket, Rhode