By Gerard Fiorenza III
The holiday season is upon us. It’s a special time intended to be both wholesome and joyous. It’s a time for traditional gift giving, sledding in the snow, ice skating at Rockefeller Center, watching holiday films and especially making cherished memories with friends and loved ones. The winter season is one full of relaxation for all the college students who complete their first semester in the school year. However, while the season is meant to bring jolly good feelings to all, many Americans express an increased feeling of stress and even in some cases depression. In fact, the holiday blues or holiday depression is a real psychological condition, especially for those who are already experiencing some form of mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64 percent of people with an existing mental illness report that the holidays make their condition worse.
There are many causes of holiday blues, including financial stress from spending too much money or not being able to afford gifts for family and friends, politics being brought up at the family dinner table (meaning plenty of family tension), feeling overwhelmed by the preparation, lack of sleep and overindulgence in food and alcohol, loneliness and unrealistic expectations.
For most people, the blues will pass with the holiday—though experts warn that if you’re still experiencing depression for an extended time you should seek medical help. However, despite the many stressors the holiday season brings, there are also many ways to de-stress and be proactive against feeling overwhelmed.
Making a schedule for yourself is always a safe place to start, as you put into perspective the specific dates and times for activities. In doing so, one could obtain a firmer grasp as to how realistic these activities will be. Some might still be bombarded with an overwhelming plethora of events to partake in. It may be judicious for one to set their priorities straight. This could be done by writing a list of all the activities you can engage in, and only picking the ones you like to do. For example, you can go Christmas caroling and send cards to your family, but if baking isn’t much of a priority for you, you could toss away the idea and replace it with something else like making holiday arts and crafts. If you’re overwhelmed with the idea of sending cards to all your friends or acquaintances, you don’t necessarily have to do away with the idea, but merely send cards to those with whom you are in regular and consistent communication. The point is you don’t have to do it all.
Holiday season gift shop- photo from Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.
The holidays are stereotypically a time for people to come together, yet many often feel lonely for a variety of personal and specific reasons. This can be aided by gathering a group of friends. If you enjoy helping people, consider volunteering for community service (see the article on page 5 for local opportunities), and in doing so, you’ll meet people with a common interest in providing for others.
Sometimes, you may feel overwhelmed by being around other people too much, and if that is the case, you may feel the need to recharge your social batteries. This can be done via practicing self care. Watch a Netflix Christmas film while snuggled up in bed sipping on hot cocoa. Listening to some holiday tunes is also an efficient way I immerse myself into the season, which I highly recommend.
While it’s always good to indulge yourself, it’s also essential to have a healthy balance where you don’t put physical health at stake. Whether it be eating healthy, working out or getting adequate sleep, if your physical health is sound, the same should hold for you mentally. Holiday sweets such as candy canes and cookies are certainly a must when indulging yourself, but moderation is key.
In essence, the holidays are a fun time to delve into a wide range of exciting events, as well as spend valuable time with the people around you. However, you matter as well, and it’s always important to check in on yourself to ensure you’re taken care of.