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Friday, December 12, 2014

Fighting the Christmas Blues

I will admit, there is a certain melancholy that lingers around me at Christmas time. From where it comes, I am not certain.  Since my late teenage years, the whole month of December has felt like one long lament.  It is comforting to know that I am not alone:

Psychology Today writes,

"We are told that Christmas, for Christians, should be the happiest time of year, an opportunity to be joyful and grateful with family, friends and colleagues. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience the highest incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report the highest incidences of suicide and attempted suicide. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals report a significant increase in patients complaining about depression. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the festive season."

These are not happy statistics, are they?  


"Is it because of the dark winter weather that increases the incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? Certainly those may be some reasons, but it appears to have more to do with unrealistic expectations and excessive self-reflection for many people."

Vermont DeadLine says:  Amen.  I am always amazed at the frenzy that occurs for one day of the year.  Yes, it is a very special day, but to me, the element of greed and "I" is almost overwhelming. I try to avoid busy shopping centers like the plague. 

The experience of Christmas shopping, to me, must be a leisurely stroll absent of screaming kids and stressed people.  I have a hard time with crowded places... but that's another story.

I believe the best part of the day is when a family sits down to eat dinner together, and then the time after the meal where we all relax together.   

A very long time ago, I spent a Christmas eve in New Brunswick and attended a midnight, candle-lit service at a packed Protestant church.  At the end of it, we all lit a candle and held it while the entire congregation sang "Silent Night" in acapella.  I will tell you that there wasn't a dry eye in the place...it was incredibly moving and I felt the spirit of Christmas.

Perhaps this is what is missing?  No person-to-person spiritual connection?  No inner fulfillment?  Like the body, our souls needs nourishment, too.  

Psychology Today goes on to say, 

"For some people, they get depressed at Christmas and even angry because of the excessive commercialization of Christmas, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on "perfect" social activities. Other get depressed because Christmas appears to be a trigger to engage in excessive self-reflection and rumination about the inadequacies of life (and a "victim" mentality) in comparison with other people who seem to have more and do more.  

Still others become anxious at Christmas because of the pressure (both commercial and self-induced) to spend a lot of money on gifts and incur increasing debt. Other people report that they dread Christmas because of the expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances that they'd rather not spend time with. And finally, many people feel very lonely at Christmas, because they have suffered the loss of loved ones or their jobs.

So what should you do, if you're among those who get depressed at Christmas? Mental health professionals who treat people with this problem suggest the following:

*first, if the depression is serious, seek out the help of a qualified mental health professional;

*set personal boundaries regarding the money spent on gifts and the number of social events;

*don't accept any "perfect" representation of Christmas that the media, institutions or other people try to make you believe. Lower your expectations and any attachment to what it should look like; be present and enjoy each moment as best you can;

*become involved in giving in a non-monetary way through charities and worthwhile causes that help less fortunate people;

*be grateful for what you have in your life, rather than focusing on what you don't have;

*avoid excessive rumination about your life; 

*take action and do interesting and fun things;

*if you are religious, take part in church activities that focus on the bigger meaning of Christmas;

*focus your thoughts on all the good things about Christmas--the opportunity to engage in loving kindness, generosity of spirit, and gratitude for others in your life.

*The Christmas season has become a difficult time for many people in our society. For those of us who don't have difficulties at this time of year, it's an opportunity to reach out to those who become depressed. 

*For those who are depressed, it's an opportunity to take action to think, feel and act in ways that breaks free from the past." -psychology today

Peace Be With You.