How To Deal With Sadness Around The Holidays, According To Experts

“Hey, We’re all here for you.”

If there were ever a time of year that energy hangs heaviest and most potently on humanity, it would probably be the holiday season. If you feel sad during the holidays, even knowing that it’s a common experience doesn’t always make the ache dissipate. But there are simple things you can do to cope that might make the twinkling lights and constant carols easier to bear if you’re in the midst of a rough time internally.

“Holidays may serve as a strong reminder that things in our life are not quite where we want or expect them to be,” Dr Victoria Chialy Smith, a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice, tells Bustle. “We may feel a wide variety of emotions including longing, regret, anger, sadness, and depression.”

Smith says the unresolved feelings the holidays can evoke are understandable. Perhaps you’ve experienced loss that feels particularly hard this time of year, or the financial expectations of the season leave you feeling you stressed and self-critical. Smith says to first and foremost give yourself permission to feel the sadness and heavy feelings. There is no need to get on your own case about not being full of cheer and serenity.

“Meet all of these difficult emotions with compassion,” Smith says, and think about doing that by staying grounded in the present when you start getting a wave of old memories, regrets, longings, or difficult emotions. “Try to stay connected to the peace of the present moment by tuning into your breath or what is immediately going on around you,” she says.

Dr. Jo Eckler, a chronic illness coach, clinical psychologist, and author of I Can’t Fix You Because You’re Not Broken: The Eight Keys to Freeing Yourself from Painful Thoughts and Feelings tells Bustle something similar. Don’t squash down the feelings you’re having, and don’t feel the need to act like your blood is made of glitter when you’re actually feeling bummed. You don’t have to pretend.

Eckler also points out that this time of year is “a ripe time for the comparison trap.” Disengage from compare and despair behaviors, though, friends, be it on social media, in conversation, or just in your own head as you walk through the holiday markets, feeling a bit glum.

“We see images of families laughing together in handmade matching PJ’s and frolicking, or super lovey-dovey couples,” Eckler says. “And even though we might have good families or partners ourselves, it’s hard to live up to a posed picture.”

 

As for the expectation to get on board the holiday activity train? Well, especially if parties, gatherings, and celebrations feel triggering, there is certainly no need for you to be the belle of each holiday ball. But that said, isolation is something you want to avoid when you’re dealing with sadness or symptoms of depression, Dr. Rebecca Cowan, of Anchor Counseling & Wellness, LLC, tells Bustle.

“When people become sad and depressed, they tend to want to isolate, and this only worsens these symptoms,” Cowan says. “Balance is key, and so is implementing a self-care plan.”

That means things like sleeping, eating enough, sharing with friends, doing things that make you feel relaxed and happy, and Cowan says, getting some sunlight. At least 30 minutes a day.

Counselor Jessica Eiseman, based out of Texas, tells Bustle that it can also be helpful to begin to create your own traditions, to make the holidays something you can enjoy. She brings up the term “un-holidays.”

“Maybe you don’t fit into traditional standards or expectations for the season,” Eiseman says. “Maybe you don’t celebrate at all or you take a trip by yourself. The most important piece being that you create some meaning based on what you enjoy and brings a little peace, if not happiness.”

Eiseman also says that if you aren’t already, visiting a therapist can be really helpful. And if the feelings seem to be worsening, or they are affecting things like your appetite and ability to sleep, do reach out for professional help as soon as possible.

And remember, it’s really OK to feel the heaviness this time of year. It’s palpable, and we are sensitive creatures! Just do what you can to take care of you. Consider it a holiday gift to yourself.

 

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6 thoughts on “How To Deal With Sadness Around The Holidays, According To Experts”

  1. This is something to which I’ve been ever sensitive, Charles. The sight of people who are alone on Christmas, or the days afterward. is a matter that my parents always told us to recognize, especially as I came from a family that, whilst celebrating holidays merrily, and to the fullest, nonetheless did what we could to tend to those lonely souls. Then, there’s the aftermath, and for my mother, especially, the days between Christmas and New Year’s were frequently times of depression and darkness, and we kids would be particularly forbearing and kind to her on those days.

    1. I saw what’s left of my family yesterday and those who have passed or are not present for whatever reason are always missed. The holidays can be difficult when the world tells us to be happy and joyous. But without the pain maybe we wouldn’t appreciate the pleasure of being alive and well if only for now.

      1. I got to see my whole family on Sunday, so the next 2 days will be rest, refreshing spirits, food, Netflix and editing for 2020! Merry Christmas 🎄🎁!!! Thank you!!

  2. So true. I think it is mostly because it falls at the end of the year that we tend to, as was stated, evaluate the entire year and plan for the next all at the same time. We are either disappointed on how it turned out or anxious about what’s next. For myself, learning that my sister had a brain tumor, seeing her decline into early dementia, losing my dog Ferguson, knowing that at any time my long time kitty will also pass, seeing my father in law at 96 , still going but miserable with many trips to the hospital and calls to the paramedics for nothing, not to mention both my hubby and I laid out with the flu cough that seems to never go away that leaves me wondering what my future will look like weighing on me. There’s a scripture that tells us, New Living Translation Matthew 6:34
    “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
    And, there are variations of that, but in all cases those words are easier said than done. Oh, if we could only harness our thoughts and emotions so easily.
    I took a job as seasonal help and as I see people either shopping with or buying for their sister, I just want to cry. It’s a reminder of how that kind of banter and camaraderie has passed for me and mine.
    On the flip side, I have to remind myself of my accomplishments. I did after all at age 72 go skydiving for the first time and I filmed a movie I wrote!

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