Avoiding holiday depression & stress

SAD; winter blues; depression counseling

It’s Christmas!  We gather to celebrate Christmas, if we are Christian, or Hannukah or. . . But the common factor is it frequently includes lots of family time.  Our culture (think, Hallmark channel movies) shows that this is “supposed” to be a time of greater joy.  However, for a lot of people the increased family time can equal greater stress.

It is possible, however, to navigate even the stormiest of family waters while retaining your joy for the season. It isn’t necessarily easy, but with a few tricks in mind, it is possible. Here are a few tips to help you get through it well.

1) Be Curious. You can’t be curious and unhappy at the same time. Often in relationships we feel the need to defend ourselves or our position. We are vulnerable to having our buttons pushed when we are around family; it always brings up our old issues!

One of the concepts from the psychology of mindfulness that helps to alleviate anxiety or stress in almost any situation is to approach it like an explorer. You can also think of yourself as a reporter, entering into the family situation as one who is curious and simply there to report the facts of what you find.   Mentally “see” yourself taking notes on a notepad during interactions.  (“How interesting! The people in this culture keep bringing up the past– I wonder what that’s about?”……Or whatever mental commentary your inner reporter might come up with.)  The reporter’s job is to be curious.  To be observant, to take mental notes.  But to stay OUT of the conflicts— and you can too.

2) Be Humble. Pope Francis has beautiful words about this in chapter 4 of Amoris Laetitia:

” It is important for Christians to show their love by the way they treat family members who in any way differ from them, or who are argumentative or hard to be around.  Needing to ‘prove’ ourselves can make us fearful or arrogant.  Either way, we feel we have to “win” our side of the conversation.  Love, on the other hand, is marked by humility; if we are to understand, forgive, and serve others from the heart, our pride has to be healed and our humility must increase.”

So there you have it. Along with curiosity, we must have humility. You see, there is a LOT that we can do to improve our holiday adventures with family, whether our family includes know-it-alls, or political opposites, or whatever else the stress may come from.

Don’t forget the words of Fr. Jacques Philipe: “Any reason that causes you to lose your peace is a bad reason.” There’s nothing worth fighting over at the family dinner table that is important enough to make you lose your peace.   When you maintain your peace, by remembering the two points above, you will feel better within yourself, and have more joy to share with others.  Not to mention, it will keep you from the holiday pit of depression and stress!