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Managing The Christmas Blues

Black couple taking a photograph by a Christmas tree and a snowy forest background

The Christmas Blues are a common phenomenon that causes people to experience lowness of mood around this time of the year. While winter blues/seasonal affective disorder/seasonal depression is more widespread over a few months, the Christmas Blues are more localised to Christmas itself. As much as it is expected to be a cheerful time of the year, with families coming together to celebrate - it can also cause a lot of distress and trauma.

Here are a few reasons why one may feel distressed or traumatised at this time of the year:

  1. Prolonged exposure to family members you would rather take in small doses. You spend a lot of the year avoiding them or minimising contact, and now all of a sudden, in the spirit of togetherness, you feel pressured to sacrifice your comfort to be able to accommodate them for the sake of wider peace.

  2. Financial stress. There's a cost of living crisis and Christmas can be expensive. Feeling the squeeze all year round, only for additional expenditure to pop up at the end can be extremely defeating.

  3. The loss of a loved one may feel extra predominant if you would normally spend this time with them or if they were particularly fond of the Christmas period.

  4. It's cold and dark. A lack of sunlight reduces our vitamin D production and it just brings the vibe down in general. It also means that we are less likely to be social and our sleep pattern can become more dysregulated, both factors reduce mood.

  5. Differences in intake or body shape/size. For many, this is the season to comfort eat! This can potentially leave one feeling more body-conscious if it causes weight gain.

  6. You're cruelly self-reflecting. It's the end of the year and this is the time that people like to do the awfully punishing self-audit where they wallow in how little they have accomplished and all the things that are wrong with them. If you feel this way, you are probably being too harsh on yourself. It's the end of the year, not the deadline for a moral submission, you still have the chance to do the things you want to do.

  7. You're on annual leave. Being away from your general routine may be exactly what you have needed! But while rest is great, if you have been particularly tense and burnt out, having a bunch of newfound freedom can be a massive shift causing a bit of emotional whiplash against what you are used to. If your annual leave isn't very long or you have a high-pressured job, you may spend your time being anxious about what you have to go back to upon your return to work.

A street with Christmas decorations

Luckily, the Christmas period isn't very long. So by default, the Christmas Blues won't be too! But that doesn't mean that there is any less pressure or distress caused by it.

Here are some ways you can manage the Christmas Blues:

  1. Set boundaries with triggering people. Boundary-setting doesn't have to be this elaborate thing that erupts the occasion, it can start from stopping yourself from responding to invasive questions or stating a simple phrase such as "I'd rather not discuss this now".

  2. Be honest about your budget and capacity. Do not stretch yourself beyond your capability, this is just deferring and exacerbating your anxieties. There can be feelings of shame and inadequacy that pop up as a result, but anyone worth honouring in your life should extend understanding, and just because you cannot deliver as much as you would like this Christmas, doesn't mean that your situation is permanent. You may just need some time to recuperate.

  3. Do something to commemorate your loved. If feelings of grief understandably intensify at this time of the year, try to do something that helps you feel like you have included this person in the holiday. That could start from saying a prayer, visiting their grave, sharing memories with loved ones sharing a toast to them or writing a letter addressed to them.

  4. Take befitting vitamins/supplements. Lowered sunlight and mood can affect your energy levels and ability to produce the nutrients your body needs. Seeing a doctor and getting a blood test can be a great chance to see what nutrients you may be deficient in. If you are based in England you are likely to be deficient in vitamin D.

  5. TRY to regulate your exposure to light. SAD lamps and smart lights can help with this. Also going for walks during peak daylight hours can help - even if the sun is only out for like 7 minutes. Dimming your indoor lights in the evening is great too! This can help to regulate your body more to optimise your mood, energy levels and sleep!

  6. Be forgiving of yourself and your body. Know that bodily changes are normal throughout the year and try to engage in movement that you enjoy. You can start of simple with some stretches. Movement helps us to be cognisant of our bodies in an appreciative way, and it can also help with weight loss.

  7. Practice gratefulness. In setting new resolutions and seeing how well you passed/failed this year, don't forget to celebrate your wins! It would be impossible for you to have made it through the year if you did NOTHING right. So take the time to keep in mind what has worked well and what you appreciate about yourself.

  8. Set a routine. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out... Centre your day around things you ENJOY! Want to watch that show, read that book, cook that food and visit that friend? Plan it out! Make sure you are maximising on enjoyment and rest whilst maintaining things to look forward to. Being idle isn't restful, it's mostly anxiety-inducing and can lead to a lack of sense of purpose, or it causes people to spiral into self-depreciation. Do something (even restful things).

If you believe that you need more assertive forms of support, check out my therapy services.

In the meantime, I wish you all a great festive season!

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