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The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Blues, booze and nothing to do: how to bloom during holiday gloom

Graphic+by+Grace+Altenhofen+%7C+Editor-in-Chief
Graphic by Grace Altenhofen | Editor-in-Chief

For many, the holiday season is a magical time. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or another winter holiday, many people look forward to December as a time to visit with loved ones, reminisce on childhood memories, overeat, overdrink and just relax.

However, the holidays can be tough and lonely for others.

My mom works as a licensed professional counselor, and one of the most surprising things she learned when she started seeing clients was how many people dread the holiday season. She said this dread can be caused by a range of things. 

Some people struggle with seasonal depression and are affected by winter at large. Some have lost a loved one, either recently or during a holiday season, and find it hard to experience the holidays without them. Others have complicated relationships with their family. Thus visiting relatives is more the root of anxiety than relaxation.

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Still, for others, it’s the plain yet powerful feeling of loneliness that casts a shadow on the magical holiday season.

So if you find yourself feeling down as winter break approaches— know you’re not alone. Your feelings are not only completely valid, but also experienced by many other people around the world… and thankfully, there are practical steps you can take to help yourself feel better when these feelings occur.

The following tips are three of the best suggestions the Mayo Clinic gave on combating stress and depression this holiday season.

1) Be honest with your family, friends and community groups about how you are feeling. It can be scary to reach out and be honest with loved ones about our feelings, especially if you think you are the only one feeling lonely or sad.

However, telling the people who love you most that you need some help getting in the holiday spirit won’t burden them. The people who truly love you WANT you to be genuinely happy! Plus, the people who know you best often know the most effective ways to make you feel better or at least point you to the best resources.

2) Prepare yourself to set aside familial differences. Perhaps the root of your holiday anxiety is the prospect of getting seated next to your racist great-uncle at the dinner table, thus being forced to listen to political opinions that would make even Gandhi throw a punch.

This also does not have to be a stressor you fight alone. If you seem to be the only one in your family that thinks bigotry is bad, talk with friends or trusted professionals ahead of time about the way your “multiphobic” family makes you feel. Maybe even designate a specific person to call if you need help cooling down at a family function.

3) Don’t abandon your typical health habits. Although it can be fun to stuff yourself full at every party, get drunk every night with your old friends from high school, or pardon yourself from all physical exercise for the month, drastically changing your typical health routines can take a silent yet massive toll on your mental health. 

This is not to say you must refuse your grandma’s delicious buffet of grease and butter in order to stay happy… but moderation is your best friend! Go ahead and skip the gym, but maybe replace it with some neighborhood walks instead! Stay out with your friends as many nights as you want, but don’t let it completely destroy your sleep schedule.

4) Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Oops, I said I was only giving three tips… but to me, this last one is more of a friendly reminder than any new information. If you’ve tried several strategies and still find yourself blue, don’t be ashamed to seek professional help.

Online counseling resources include BetterHelp, eTherapyPro, TalkwithStranger! and several others. There are also phone hotlines, walk-in counseling centers and special church or community based counseling resources that pop up all over around the holidays. Don’t be afraid to seek them out!

Read Mayo Clinic’s more comprehensive list of suggestions.

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