Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 26th 2014 Contents A26
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, December 26, 2014
Samantha Gattsek s family has
never made a big deal out of holiday
But this year, she feels especially
disconnected from the seasonal cheer
"The holidays can feel like a lonely
time of year, and it s hard to hear
about everyone else s fun plans," the
29-year-old Manhattanite says. "I
don t have that warm and fuzzy feel-
Gattsek can t afford the US$700
plane ticket to visit her boyfriend in
Atlanta. Plus, she has to work on
Christmas Eve. With nothing much
to look forward to, she s suffered from
low energy since Thanksgiving and
has a bad case of the holiday blues.
Why it's easy to hate the holidays
The holidays are supposed to be
the happiest time of the year, yet for
many, they trigger deep feelings of
sadness and anxiety.
"There s so much emphasis on fam-
ily and celebration, but it s hard if
you re dealing with difficult memories
or reminders that you re not close to
your family," says Sharon Melnick,
author of Success Under Stress: Pow-
erful Tools for Staying Calm, Confi-
dent and Productive When the Pres-
sure s On.
"It can feel like there s a big gap
between what other people are expe-
riencing and what you re experienc-
Add the financial pressure of gift-
giving, cold weather and lack of sun-
light, and those are prime conditions
for a world-class funk. But unlike sea-
sonal affective disorder (SAD), which
is estimated to affect up to 20 per
cent of Americans, it s unknown how
many people suffer from the holiday
"It s important not to classify all
winter doldrums as SAD," explains
Sarah Eckfeldt, a psychotherapist in
New York City. "Many people expe-
rience a drop in mood in anticipation
of the holidays because they might
be sad over a recent breakup or spend-
ing the first holiday after the death
of a loved one and could benefit from
talking to a therapist."
The good news: Seasonal doldrums
tend to fade once the festivities are
over (and if they don t, consider seek-
ing professional help). In the mean-
time, here are some tips to help you
improve your mood over the next two
1. Seek social support
Meghan Day was seized with sad-
ness earlier this month after decorating
her Christmas tree alone.
The activity was intended to make
her feel better about creating her own
holiday traditions; she had separated
from her husband a year earlier.
"It all feels really strange and new.
It s hard not to get in a down place
about being alone this time of year,"
she says. Since the start of the holiday
season, she s struggled to get out of
bed in the morning and hasn t felt
like going out after work.
When the blues strike, who
wouldn t want to hide at home in yoga
pants? Make yourself go out anyway,
"Hibernation and isolation can feed
a depressed mood," she says. "Sur-
round yourself with friends, even if
you don t feel like it. Not only are you
distracting yourself from your possibly
blue thoughts, but being out with
others provides you with opportunities
for pleasure and joy."
Feeling wary about making small
talk? You can skip those parties, she
says. Instead, make plans with small
groups of friends. Just having a few
events on her calendar to look forward
to has helped Day feel more connected
to those around her. "It s been good
to share how I m feeling with someone
other than my therapist," she says.
She s also taken the opportunity to
explore new things to do that don t
involve pricey dinners or drinks.
"Staying out late drinking is exhaust-
ing, and not good for my health. It
tends to bring me down more than
make me feel better," she says. On her
calendar this month: A Broadway play
and a Knicks game.
2. Get to the gym
When Gattsek s holiday blues set
in, she found herself skipping work-
outs with her running group. But fore-
going fitness only deprives you of the
exercised-induced endorphins that
might help boost your mood.
The challenge is getting your-
self there when you least feel like
"Resist any excuse not to go,"
says Eckfeldt. "Or make a bargain
with yourself that you only have
to exercise for 10 minutes. Your
heart rate will start to rise, and
most likely you ll stick it out
longer because you re already
Better yet, plan a workout with
a friend so you re less likely to
flake out. Day gravitates to group
fitness classes with high-energy
music to keep her spirits up. And
on days when Gattsek doesn t
want to run, she opts for a spin-
ning class or trying out the new
yoga studios in her neighborhood.
3. Don't look at Facebook
Even though you know that
most people only post their hap-
piest moments on social media,
it s easy to lose perspective and
get a serious case of FOMO (fear
of missing out).
"You can t compare yourself to
others highlight reels of their
lives," says Melnick, who advo-
cates that less Instagram is more
when you re in the dumps.
Gattsek believes limiting her
consumption of Facebook is help-
ful during the holidays. "The sec-
ond I read something that makes
me feel jealous, I shut it off," she
Reach out to your close friends
via phone or text message when
you feel like connecting with peo-
ple. You ll get more satisfaction
hearing updates from people you
actually like, rather than tons of
people you haven t seen in years.
4. Reframe your thinking
If you feel isolated, it s impor-
tant to remember you re still in
charge of your life.
"The way to bring more abun-
dance into your life is to give
first," urges Melnick. "Find oppor-
tunities to volunteer. Meet people.
Attend events." Instead of feeling
left out of others holiday plans,
Gattsek says she s started thinking
of the break as free time to do
whatever she wants --- even if
that means spending the day in
bed with her cats and Netflix.
"I m also trying to recognise
that it s a challenging time and
that it s OK to feel overwhelmed
and sad," says Day.
Finally, it helps tell yourself
that the holidays are just a season
that will soon pass. In the mean-
time, Gattsek tells herself she just
has to make it to New Year s Eve.
"My holiday blues usually last
until the stroke of midnight," she
says. "Then I become optimistic
about the coming year."
If you struggle with serious and
continuous depressive symptoms,
be sure to reach out to a health-
care provider to discuss your con-
dition. For additional information
on depression, head to the
National Institute of Mental
Four simple steps to beating the holiday blues
Seasonal doldrums tend to fade once the festivities are over but it can be
difficult for people during the festive season.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Links Archive December 25th 2014 December 27th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page