We’re inundated these days with advertisements, TV commercials, and the whole Hallmark hullabaloo stressing the fun in family traditions and the celebration of holidays. We’re then exposed to “studies” telling us how the holidays can breed depression, accentuating the negative aspects of what is to come.

This combination of media madness sets us up, I believe, for the very depression we’d most like to avoid. What would help, though, is to anticipate the possible difficulties that holidays often present. In so doing, we’d be better prepared when many of them do occur.

Some children can enjoy the obvious magic of the holidays when the surprise of gifts trumps all else. Adults, however, know that holidays can be a lonely time. They have a way of creeping up on us as ghosts from our past, taking us back in time, remembering loved ones who are no longer with us. Now we’re left to “celebrate” without them, and for many this is a time that evokes great sadness.

Ask most adults and I believe they’re likely to tell you that their memories of family holidays were seldom the picture perfect “Brady Bunch” bash! More often, their family was – as most families – complex when it came to the interactions of siblings, parents, extended family members and friends. Holiday celebrations were not always pleasant! Often, in fact, they brought with them more stress than joy.

There are also those families in which some members don’t speak to others and if someone opts to host a gathering, he or she then has to decide whom to invite and whom to omit. In families where parents are divorced (to say nothing of when one or both have re-married), decisions have to be made as to which day which parent gets to be with which kids and which day they don’t. When the children are grown, then they have to decide for themselves where to go, whom to honor at the expense of hurting others. Any way you look at it, it’s rare to find a family where everyone is cozy and feels good about celebrating in the true spirit of joy that holidays – in the best possible world – should provide, though they don’t seem to do so often enough.

So, I don’t believe that the question should be HOW TO AVOID THE HOLIDAY BLUES. I do think it should be HOW BEST TO PREPARE FOR THE EMOTIONAL UPS AND DOWNS OF THE HOLIDAYS!

Personal experience, as well as the myriad of stories I’ve heard from my patients over the years, affirms that when we are able to acknowledge the realty of all that’s likely to happen as opposed to buying into an illusion imposed upon us, we are less likely to become victims of the media with its portraits of family bliss and are better prepared to accept whatever our particular family’s dynamics may be.

Expecting what is real allows us to be “in the moment” and enjoy what IS enjoyable, lessening the degree of whatever feelings of anxiety, sadness, and/or actual depression we may experience.

The recipe for such enjoyment is to change one’s FOCUS and one’s EXPECTATIONS.

When we FOCUS on reality and not fantasy, the here and now is a place where we’re able to exist with greater comfort. In doing so, we’re also able to feel grateful for what and whom we DO have in our lives.

It’s amazing how powerful words are when we prepare ourselves with positive self-talk rather than by giving ourselves negative messages about what might happen.

On a personal note, those of you who have read my memoir, FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS, will appreciate why I feel so committed to helping people change negative expectations which so often become self-fulfilling. In doing so myself, I have been far happier and I wish that for each of you.

Also, I send best wishes and enormous gratitude to all who are loyal readers of my blog, and to those who voted for me in Wellsphere’s BEST BLOGGER contest. As many of you know by now, I won the THE TOP BLOGGER award in the field of Mental Health and was in the company of the Top 20 Bloggers from the hundreds of those entered.

I celebrate both with humility and much appreciation to all of you.

May you all stay focused and enjoy your holidays!

Warm regards ~ Linda

1 Comment

  • Helen Z. says:

    Dear Linda:
    First, it gives me great pleasure to offer you a heart felt "mazel tov" on your well deserved award!
    As always, your blog is very timely, touching on all the negatives and positives associated with celebrations at this time of year. I agree that people have so much psychological baggage invested in the December holidays. However,I have found that the once-a-week Sabbath get together effectively takes the burden off the once-a-year holiday let down. Anticipating the weekly Friday night dinner with family members is a wonderful antidote to
    the post holiday "blues" because each week becomes a much anticipated holiday.