By now, many homes across the nation are decked out with holiday decorations. String lights are strung around trees, houses, and even apartment windows. Almost all retail shops contain some form of holiday decorations, from simple Christmas trees to menorahs, to elaborate Christmas towns.
While for many people the end of year holiday festivities is the most wonderful time of the year, for others it brings back unpleasant memories of holidays past. Instead of sparking joy feelings of sadness, isolation, and anxiety follow. Holiday lights in particular have been shown to conjure up unhappy memories.
Multiple studies demonstrate that holiday lights and decorations help people recall memories of earlier holidays, especially during early childhood years. If your memories are pleasant, feelings of joy, excitement, and fun to follow. If your memories are unpleasant, and even traumatic, feelings of sadness, isolation, and hurt follow. You may not be over your particular unpleasant memory. Especially if around the holidays you experienced a death in the family, went through a particularly bad breakup, or had a difficult childhood, holiday lights and decorations can be a harbinger of holiday blues.
Avoiding Holiday Stress
There is no magic wand to erase past unpleasant experiences. You can however, impact new positive experiences. If you tend to feel more sadness than joy around the holidays there are techniques, you could employ to keep the blues away. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, defines holiday blues as “temporary feelings of anxiety or depression during the holidays that can be associated with extra stress, unrealistic expectations, or even memories that accompany the season.”
Individuals with chronic illnesses and suffering from depression are more susceptible to feelings of isolation and sadness around the holidays than others. It is very difficult to get in the holiday spirit when previous holidays have been negative. Take charge of your holiday experience by adopting some of the following techniques to fend off the holiday blues:
- Don’t overextend yourself. Only commit to activities that are enjoyable. Instead of hosting a holiday party, attend one as a guest.
- Focus on the activity that brings you joy. Instead of cooking all of the components of your meal, only prepare the dishes that you enjoy and are not associated with painful memories.
- Talk with friends and family. Ask those you love for extra support around the holidays. If comfortable, share some of your past experiences and ask for understanding from others.