Health

5 ways to manage holiday blues

The decorations are on display. Festive music plays. Gifts are being wrapped. The holiday season is full swing with good cheer. And yet, I admit to feeling the blues sometimes during this time of year. How about you? Keep reading to learn 5 ways to manage holiday blues.

The holiday blues

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season bring a myriad of emotions for me. I’m grateful for the family and friends in my life, especially those who check in to say hello or catch up. But the truth is that I also struggle with embracing holiday cheer. Some things bumming me this year:

  • I miss my dad a lot this time of year. Our family traditions aren’t quite the same without him in the mix. I just want to hug him.
  • Being single and childless are especially glaring during the holiday season. I’m fortunate to have a lot of family and friends filling my life but it’s still different. Don’t get me wrong – I am happy in my life and feel very fortunate for my lifestyle and health. I choose to be selective with dating and accepted long ago that cancer affected my child status. But there are still times that loneliness sets in and the reminders of cancer treatment’s impact weigh heavy.
  • The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic certainly continues to put a damper on holiday cheer. As a cancer survivor, I am protective of my health so still cautious around others (yes, I am fully vaccinated (cheers to science!) but my heart and lungs went through a lot during cancer treatment.). Living in Michigan during the winter makes it tough to be too social since I limit interactions with others indoors. Many of my friends are too. No Christmas parties this year again.

Friends and family have shared that they’re feeling the blues too. Covid changed a lot of our family gatherings last year and continues to for some people. Some may also have an empty seat at the table, whether from Covid, cancer or some other reason. 

Going through cancer treatment or other illness can also bring feelings of the blues. Treatment can make you feel tired or lethargic. You may have extra concerns about staying healthy during holiday gatherings with Covid and the flu and cold season occurring. Or you have to skip gatherings, causing you to feel disappointed and left out of the fun.

So as you can read, there are many reasons that may cause someone to not be fully feeling holiday joy. And that’s ok. But there are some easy, practical ways to keep your spirits up. No matter what situation you may be facing, letting those holiday blues melt into holiday cheer can have a lasting benefit to your mental, emotional and physical health.

Here are 5 ways to manage holiday blues:

Focus on the good.

In the midst of channeling surfing the other day, I paused on one of my favorite parts of the Sound of Music, when Maria is singing about a few of her favorite things. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens….. it’s a good reminder that focusing on the things that make you happy or something good that happened to you can change your perspective.

A few years ago, I learned I had early stage breast cancer two days before Christmas Eve. It was, of course, devastating to my family and me. And since I couldn’t see an oncologist until after the holiday, I decided there was no point in dwelling on it and insisted we put it aside to celebrate Christmas as we always did. I focused on all the love and fun of that holiday. The games played, big hugs, laughter. I remember the clear starry night, hot cocoa, watching White Christmas. By staying focused on the good in my life, it helped my emotions stay positive and made for a happy, fun holiday season. And set me up to approach treatment with the same positive attitude of finding good.

Create new traditions and memories. 

While reminiscing about old traditions and memories can be special, it also can create a sense of loss, whether of a person and even a period of life that we enjoyed but is over. I sometimes catch myself focusing too much on ‘life before cancer,’ when things seemed easier and less anxiety and worry. This admittedly causes me to feel a bit blue so I try to acknowledge the past while staying focused on today and the promise of a great future. As life changes and families grow, traditions may change too. And that’s ok. Appreciate what you do have and are able to do. Then have fun thinking of new traditions and celebrations!

Take a break.

The Covid pandemic brought our social lives to a screeching halt in 2020 and even most of this year. But many people realized that they didn’t need to be always on the go. I really enjoy and value quiet time during the holiday season (ok, yes, all year!). Evenings at home with a blanket, book or movie in front of the fireplace….yep, bliss for me. Taking time for yourself is important. Do something that you enjoy. Find a quiet spot to relax, close your eyes and calm your mind, even for five or 10 minutes. It’s acceptable to say no or decline invites. Do what makes you happy. But on the flip side, don’t use ‘taking a break’ as an opportunity to stay focused on the blues. If you find yourself persistently sad or lethargic, contact a professional counselor or your doctor.

Spend time with people who make you smile.

In my opinion, laughter truly makes a positive difference in our lives! I always feel better with laughter, don’t you? Laughing with friends and family is the best. It can help improve your mindset too. So call up a friend or schedule time to be together. Despite the frustration and blues about the ongoing pandemic still limiting some social outings, there are opportunities to see people. Host a small gathering with vaccinated friends. Meet outside if possible. Be creative and have fun!

If you’re uncomfortable or unable to be social in public, schedule a virtual hangout. I recently had a blast playing virtual games with girlfriends on a Zoom call. If you’re comfortable doing so, be honest with close friends or family members about feeling blah. Maybe let them know that you could some support, whether that’s listening or simply laughing together. Consider also reaching out to someone who could use a listening ear or some laughs too.

Being active keeps me happy!
Get active.

During the snowy, slick winter I can’t be active much outdoors due to the rod in my leg but I still find ways to move my body. My bike trainer, weights and plenty of virtual exercise classes (yoga, Zumba, barre) help keep me physically and mentally feeling good. After clearing three cancers, I find much confidence and joy in exercise because it reminds me of how strong my body and mind are. If you need some motivation to get started, check out ‘10 tips to motivate you to exercise’ blog post.

Looking ahead

Always remember that this too shall pass. So if you really aren’t into the holidays this year, know that time moves on and the calendar will soon flip. Focus on planning something fun to do in the new year. Maybe book a trip, schedule a class to learn something new, work on a vision board full of great plans. Remember you do you.

**If you are feeling really blue or struggling with sadness and anxiety, consider talking to a professional counselor or your doctor. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone outside of your friends and family circle. Taking care of your mental health is important to your overall health.