Mental Healing for the Holidays
By Alisa Huff, Psy. D
While many are joyfully anticipating holiday celebrations and looking forward to being with family and friends, others may be dreading “the whole terrible thing.” For them, this time of year can be a time of loneliness and melancholy. For some people, the holidays are a time that reminds them of losses—the loss of a loved one, the loss of a home, the loss of good health.
How do you get through the holidays when you do not have festivities or family time on your calendar? Following are some tips for beating those holiday blues.
Be Kind to Others
Volunteer your time to make the holidays happier for others. Helping someone else is often the best way to change your perspective and raise your spirits—especially this time of the year.
Perform acts of kindness. Smile at a stranger. Open a door for someone. Thank someone for the work they do. Let another driver into the line of traffic. Give someone a ride. Run an errand for someone who is sick. Such small acts of kindness take little time or effort but can make a big difference in someone else’s day. Perhaps you will even inspire others to “pay it forward.”
Make holiday cards for a child who is in foster care or in the hospital. Imagine bringing a smile to the face of a child who is spending the holidays in a foster home or hospital room.
Host a holiday meal for others who would otherwise be alone. Sing carols together or play games.
Join or organize a group to go caroling at a nursing home, hospital, or senior center. The music will lift not only your spirits but your audience’s as well.
Adopt an animal for company, or volunteer your time at the local animal shelter.
Be Kind to Yourself
Limit your time online. Extended time online can cause social media users to judge themselves or compare themselves unfavorably with others. This can be a recipe for depression! Instead of spending so much time online, make memories in person. Get out and attend public holiday events around town.
Take time to de-clutter. A cluttered home can make you feel overwhelmed and unable to move forward with your thinking and your activities. Make the de-cluttering process fun! Play your favorite music and tackle one project at a time—you’ll be surprised how quickly the time passes!
Read a literary classic. Curl up on the couch with a warm drink and a good book!
Learn something new. What piques your interest? What do you long to learn? Participating in a class or workshop on your favorite topic can help beat the blues and add some excitement to your life.
Splurge on something scrumptious. What is your favorite treat— a nice cup of coffee or tea? If you have the money to spare, get yourself a warm, holiday drink from the local coffee shop.
Put up holiday decorations—what’s wrong with decorating your place just for yourself?
Make healthy changes to your eating and exercising. Avoid unhealthy holiday eating habits, and turn toward fruits, veggies, and foods high in Vitamin D. Take a brisk walk, especially in a green environment. The choices you make for your body have a direct impact on how you feel, both physically and emotionally.
Try greening your living space with plants. Living things can perk up your home, your office, and your frame of mind.
Take up a new hobby. So, you’ve always wanted to take up whittling, building birdhouses, painting, crafting, or swimming? Whatever it is you have always wanted to do, take the plunge and get started.
Finally, it is important to realize that while the holiday blues may be difficult, in most cases they are temporary. If you or your loved one is severely depressed for more than two weeks, consider getting professional help. In the event that you are experiencing emotional distress or having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Alisa Huff, Psy.D. is the Lead Psychologist for the Mental Health Branch of the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA).
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.