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Managing that “Bah Humbug” feeling

Andrea Wise-Brown, M.Ed., LPC

While waiting in line at a grocery store which was adorned with overbearing Christmas paraphernalia, a woman asked me, “Am I the only person who hates the holidays?” I quickly responded, “No, there are many people who don’t like the holidays and for many different valid reasons.” The woman sighed and smiled while displaying a look of relief as if I had alleviated some of her holiday guilt.

There are many people who share the “Bah Humbug” mentality or “Holiday Blues.” The University of Iowa hospital and clinics found that an estimated 10 percent of the population suffers from holiday depression to some degree. In the U.S. we are taught from a young age that somewhere between November 14th and January 2nd we are supposed to be blissful while being bombarded with love and gifts as we attend family events for the holiday season. This western societal norm causes much anguish for some. Many families are disconnected and are not open for kinship. Others are struggling to make ends meet so participating in holiday rituals can add to their stressful life circumstances.

If you are not one of the persons who fit in that “blissful box” that society has prepared where ALL is joyful during the holiday season, here are some tips that may help you get through the season.

  1. Have realistic Expectations. If you are reuniting with family and friends, remember that people don’t change just because of the holidays. Sometimes it’s best to get along while choosing not to declare your righteousness.
  2. Be Honest about how much you have in your budget to spend. The goal of the holidays is to connect with others not try to outspend them.
  3. Don’t take on too many Responsibilities; ask others for help when hosting a holiday event. Trying to do it all yourself can be overwhelming and anxiety provoking. By delegating task, others will feel included in making the event pleasurable.
  4. Focus on the “here and now”, let go of the past and/or the ideal of how things should be. Express gratitude for what is. Enjoy each holiday in its’ own way; create new traditions each year as you choose to celebrate.
  5. Volunteer and share your time with others who are less fortunate. Do not isolate yourself. If you don’t want to be around familiar faces, give your time by packing toys, serving/delivering meals and/or visiting residential homes or hospitals. There are several satisfying ways to spend the holiday season, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Thanksgiving. View the season as a time to create new traditions for yourself. In addition the holiday season is at the end of the calendar year which is the perfect time to reflect on your accomplishments and reevaluate your goals. Look at this time of year as a time to connect with yourself and your future. Commit to the idea that the holiday season is beneficial for your personal growth because it allows for time to pause and assess what really matters you. So sigh, smile and relieve yourself of any feelings of guilt about having the “holiday blues” as the woman who I met in the grocery store did. She came to the realization that a “season” is just that, a “season”, you are the one who gives a season whatever meaning you want it to have.

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