DEAR READERS: Thanksgiving dishes are back in the china cabinet, and the last of the leftovers are finished. The party season is starting, and Christmas carols fill the air. While this is an exciting and joyful time for a lot of us, for many individuals the holidays can be an intensely difficult time, triggering feelings of stress, loneliness and loss.
If a person is prone to depression, these feelings can be magnified.
How can anyone feel depressed at this time of year, you ask? The reasons are many: People who are separated from their families often feel isolated because they are unable to celebrate in the traditional way. Families who have lost a loved one during the year often feel his or her absence especially at this time. Others become depressed because they imagine that everyone else is enjoying a warm, idealized family experience, while they are on the outside looking in.
Even people who enjoy the holidays can find them stressful. At this time of year people are stretched for time, energy and money - - particularly the latter. They may feel embarrassed because they can't celebrate the way they would like to, or celebrate in the style they have in years past.
Some ways to ward off the holiday blues:
-- Keep expectations reasonable. Do not take on more activities than you can comfortably handle -- financially or otherwise.
-- Don't overspend. Plan a holiday budget and live within it, regardless of the temptation.
-- Do not run up credit card debt, or January will be like a serious hangover.
-- And speaking of hangovers: Watch your alcohol intake. Remember, although alcohol appears to be a mood elevator, it is actually a depressant. If you have a problem with alcohol, get whatever support you need to make it through the holidays.
And finally, if you are feeling down and in need of an instant "upper," the surest way to accomplish it is to do something nice for someone else. Call someone who lives alone and invite that person to dinner. Better yet, say, "I'm coming to get you, and I'll see that you get safely home." (Some older people no longer drive at night, and those who do might prefer not to be behind the wheel after dark.) Give it a try! You'll be glad you did.
And another reminder: We have so much for which to be grateful -- our health, our sanity, our freedom. For those of you with a little time to spare, how about showing our gratitude to our wounded veterans by visiting a veteran's hospital and raising the spirits of those who have served our country? As I said before, the quickest way to lose those holiday blues is to extend a hand to someone who could use one. Try it and you'll see what I mean.