By Victor S. Sierpina

This is the time of year when everyone is acting cheerful and happy, so why do I feel blue?

Just know you are not alone. The holiday blues are a common phenomenon and may seem paradoxical in just the time of the year when we are in the midst of planning to enjoy friends, family, feasts and fun.

In fact, this is not always such a cheerful time for some. Those who have lost family members, those who are financially stretched, or those who already feel their life activities are too stressful may not look forward to the holidays.

Holding unrealistic expectations that everything will go perfectly is another source of inner stress. Such thoughts, beliefs and feelings may even be internalized as physical symptoms: chest pain may show up from emotional heartache, headache could represent repressed anger, or backache concerns about lack in financial according to some metaphysical interpretations.
As the holidays approach, we engage in the annual rounds of cooking, shopping, exchanging gifts and times of celebration with family and friends. This seemingly nonstop activity can be both exhilarating and exhausting.

Remember that this is also the time of the winter solstice, the shortest, darkest day of the year. This is a reminder of the cycle of life and a call to quietude, reflection, intuition and introspection. Some effort to such inner-directed mindfulness can help us survive and thrive in the celebratory frenzy of this time of year. Like the dormant earth, it prepares us for new, true, and healthy growth in the seasons ahead.

Some suggestions on warding off the holiday blues are:

1. Get some regular sunlight exposure as sometimes the seasonal affective disorder sets in the midst of winter. Outside exercise can both get you some needed sunlight but also is a proven stress-buster.

2. Avoid overly perfectionistic expectations that all family and social gatherings will be perfect, will heal all rifts and be totally joyful.

3. Manage stress by taking time from holiday activities to make time for yourself. It is OK and even essential to have some alone time to meditate and reflect on the past year and the year ahead.

4. The challenge for those struggling with weight is to at least “maintain no gain” during this month while goodies of all kinds are abundant and tempting. Portion control, regular exercise, weighing regularly will keep you from an unpleasant surprise on New Year’s Day.

5. Do something special for others. This is a season of gratitude and giving. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to buy things, sharing the treasures of your time and attention through volunteering and random acts of kindness can bring both you and those around you great joy and relieve holiday blues.

These approaches can help us overcome the holiday blues. They give us a chance to reflect and honor the abundance in our lives. We can choose to maintain focus on what we have rather than what we lack. By being on the giving side of the cycle of giving and receiving, we affirm our prosperity.

Prosperity is not just material but includes relationships, health and being present to the small and seemingly ordinary things of life … the sunrise and sunset, the wind on our faces, the beauty of nature, the twinkling ornaments and lights, the smell of that fresh tree.

Gratitude also opens our heart to others, helps us connect with them and invites positive attitudes and emotions to dwell in our hearts and minds. Gratitude is a great stress reliever and as we can only keep one thought or emotion in our minds at a time, why not make it gratitude? Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving. It is the ultimate way to relieve the holiday blues.