Holiday Blues

As we head towards Easter celebration in a few days, here are a few tips on combating Holiday Blues. 

This article first appeared in the December issue of Sage magazine.

All rights reserved. Please indicate the source when quoting this article. 

As we prepare to bring down the curtains on yet another year I’m sure most of us are wondering, where did the year go? Well, guess what? You are not alone.

A lot of us made very determined resolutions in January of this year, vowing that this would be the year of change. The thing about January is that it always makes us feel like we have so much time to make the changes we have long been putting off. Then before you know it, February is here and suddenly it’s Valentine’s Day and when you blink again, Easter is upon us. The cold months pass in a blur as we long for the warm months to return and let’s face it, after August, most of us just zone out waiting for January to start all over again.

This brings us to yet another festive season where we shall inevitably spend more than we planned to and count our losses in January. If you are a parent like me, let me give you a tip; always plan to pay your kids’ school fees in November. Thank me later.

December is traditionally regarded as a laid back month with reduced working hours and most people taking their annual leave. It’s also when most of us take time out to spend with our extended families usually back in our ancestral homes. Others plan extravagant trips out of town with their loved ones to just kick back, relax and have a great time.

Which makes it interesting that this is often the season where people experience a lot of “holiday blues”. While most would not readily admit it, quite a number of people now dread the holidays for varied but quite valid reasons.

One of the main reasons is the result of looking back at the year and realizing that you aren’t where you anticipated you would be, creating a feeling of disappointment or even failure. This can be exacerbated by being around family who predictably want to catch up on what you have been doing or even worse, that one family member who always seems to have it together and loves to flaunt it.  Feelings of envy and comparison to people who appear successful while you are floundering can truly make this time hellish.  One way to deal with this is understand that comparisons are a waste of time; if you want to succeed, put in the work and remain accountable to yourself. Learn how to appreciate yourself and applaud even your tiny wins.

Cultural traditions especially in cases of inter-marriage can also bring on the blues. If you’re lucky, you have a good relationship with your in-laws and feel perfectly comfortable in their homes. For the unlucky few, relations are strained and barely cordial. Imagine having to spend your Christmas with in-laws who will not hesitate to criticize your every action. Perhaps they didn’t even approve of you as the choice of spouse for their beloved kin. For women who are used to city life where you have some help at home, this could be the stuff of nightmares as some in-laws will expect you to carry out chores you are clueless about like cooking ugali for dozens of people on firewood. Never mind that for most people, this is the only time of year they get a much needed break; the furthest thing they planned on was spending that time slaving away in a hostile environment. It’s important to be honest with your spouse if this tradition is bringing you down. Bottling it up will only create feelings of resentment, eventually creating even greater problems.

For those who are recently bereaved this time of year brings with it a keen sense of loss and even loneliness. It can be difficult or painful to continue with certain traditions previously accustomed to while the departed person was alive. Even those who would normally offer comfort will be occupied at this time making this group of people even more desolate. Dealing with grief is a critical part of the healing process – allow yourself time to grieve fully and seek out a counselor to help you through difficult times. Being too strong can also lead to bottled up grief which can possibly lead to depression.

These are just a few of the reasons for holiday blues; however the list is far from exhaustive. A critical step in combating the feelings is to acknowledge that they exist rather than remain in denial and pretend to be ok.  We are often more concerned with keeping up appearances for the comfort of others and to maintain a certain illusion which is just a mask. This December remember that the people who really care about you will still love you even when they see the real you.  Happy Holidays!

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