Elvis sang about having a Blue Christmas, but his twangy tune is a far cry from the Christmas Blues.
There isn’t a single cause for the Christmas Blues, or the feeling of sadness that can accompany the end-of-the-year holidays. We’re constantly slammed with reminders to be merry, grateful, joyful, and other positive sentiments. 1 in 6 people do not, in fact, feel merry, grateful, or joyous for various reasons laid out by Harley Therapy:
- Comparison Shopping: this isn’t always literal shopping. It’s using the “comparison as the thief of joy” trope. We’re comparing our current situation with those we see online that our friends and coworkers uphold, or the nostalgia for the Christmases of the past spent with people who aren’t in our lives anymore for some reason or another.
- Increased Stress: there’s just more to do, period, around the holidays. Shopping lists, longer lines wherever we go, and more money spent than we might expect. Add to that the fact we tend to consume less nutritious food and more sugary treats and alcohol. Both majorly affect stress hormone levels.
- End-of-the-year Anxiety: the impact retrospection can have lies on a spectrum. We tend to focus on what’s missing: what we didn’t accomplish, what we didn’t get around to, or what we lost.
Suddenly, the Christmas Blues make a lot more sense, don’t they?
In addition to the above, there may be a sense of sadness underlying the most wonderful time of year as well. It’s a season steeped in traditions. But as we grow and things change, these traditions – often rooted in nostalgia – can become painful. Reminiscing about the past is fine, romanticizing the past is problematic.
As the saying goes, we never step into the same river twice. And yet, we unconsciously expect to retain the same feelings of excitement, anticipation, and joy around the season we’ve felt previously. Maybe there’s pressure to up the ante from last year’s festivities, or maybe it’s the first holiday without a loved one. There are infinite reasons why we feel the way we feel. But there’s good news: it won’t last forever.
Caring for Others Means Caring for Yourself
You’ve no doubt heard this advice in different forms, but most frequently on airplanes: put on your own oxygen mask first. Take care of yourself first, in both little and big ways. Here’s what I mean:
- Make time for yourself (and just yourself). Even if it means you don’t get around to that last one thing on your to-do list for the day. Even if it’s just breathwork while waiting in the self-checkout line at Target. These tiny moments alone might not seem like much, but they can add up to something more tangible by lowering cortisol levels and giving you a bit of space.
- Say no. A therapist once helped me figure out the difference between a soft and a firm “yes.” In the Midwest, we want to be nice and agreeable, which creates the soft “yes” phenomenon. A soft “yes” is really a no. It’s agreeing to something you really don’t want to do, making you drag your feet and feel stuck. Feel ok about saying an actual “no” to social events taking you out of your hygge house, no to family if they cause stress. Give a firm “no” to anything that doesn’t feel like that firm “yes” in the pit of your stomach.
- Enjoy free events. If you need to get out in the winter months, there are plenty of options. We’ve all attended the holiday experiences with entry fees and added costs for petting llamas and reindeer. But there are plenty of free and low-cost events for the family to enjoy. Around the Twin Cities area, the Como Park Flower Show is donation-based. Touring the Governor’s Mansion, holiday concerts, tree-lighting festivities, and more are all free as well.
- Create new traditions. If nostalgia plays a big part in getting you down toward the end of the year, begin to create your own traditions to keep up. Learn to ice skate. Maybe it’s something small, like paying a compliment to three strangers every day. Or gifting a little bouquet of flowers to someone at Trader Joe’s. Double up on the dopamine by choosing to do some volunteer work, or maybe make a few lasagnas for folks in need with the organization, Lasagna Love. Community can be powerful medicine.
Ultimately, you’re the only one who can decide what’s best for you. Know you aren’t alone, and resources are available if you need them.
Let your heart be light <3
Meghan Hatalla is a body-positive Minnesota yoga instructor and life design writer.