Beyond Blue

A great holiday piece from John Grohol at Psych Central. Click here to read the whole piece.

The Christmas season is upon us once again, and once again we find ourselves balancing between our work or studies, hanging out friends, scheduling time with family, and maybe even attending a party or two. The Christmas tree stands are up down at the corner, where they magically appear every year, full of the usual perfect, green triangular symbols of the season.

At some point though, in-between the parties, the family gatherings and the endless shopping crowds, the cheer of the holidays can quickly leave our rosy cheeks and send us into a downward depressive spiral. How do you keep that depression from affecting not only your mood, but the mood of others around you? And how can you keep the joy in the holidays and stop them from turning into yet another year of an endless parade of materialism?

12 Tips to Keep Joy in the Holidays

1. Be realistic and put the “ideal” Christmas out of your head. Too many people have an idealized version of what the holidays should be like, instead of what they really are. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has an ideal, picture-perfect holiday. By setting expectations up-front — and keeping them realistic — you won’t be disappointed that your family gathering devolves into another eating free-for-all, when it has happened every year since you can remember.

2. Take a time-out from materialism and do something spiritual, family-oriented, or non-materialistic this season. All too often we get caught up in the shopping, the endless sales, the “need” to make sure we buy something for everyone, that we lose sight of things that really matter — our friendships, our family, our spirituality, our fellow man (and woman) who may be less fortunate than us. Even in tough economic times (some might say, especially in such times), others need our help even when we feel we have little to offer. Volunteer at a food bank, do something additional for your church, adopt a family in need this season. If you cut just 10% of your spending on gifts and donated that money to charity, you’d be surprised at how much a difference such giving would help.

3. Take a time-out from family arguments, simmering feuds, and unhappy relationships. In an ideal world, we’d be friends with everyone and everyone would be friends with us. But in the real world, we get into disagreements or sometimes full-fledged arguments with others we care about. In the spirit of the giving season, give something that is priceless — your compassion and forgiveness (even if only temporary) to those in your life you feel have wronged you in some way.

4. Schedule sooner and often. Feeling overwhelmed by too much to do and too little time to do it all in? Schedule it all out right now on your favorite calendar or planner, then stick to it. Too many people get into trouble accepting last-minute invitations, or by trying to accommodate a last-minute visit with someone they hadn’t planned on seeing. If your schedule allows for it, fine, but if not, you’ll know in an instant.

5. Check your coat — and guilt — at the door. Everyone has likely felt the pang of guilt due to not being able to meet some holiday obligation or feeling bad about a gift gone awry. But this is the season of joy and celebration, not one where every misstep is meant to make us feel badly for our choices. Leave the guilt at home for a change and if you find yourself going down the guilty road in your head, simply tell yourself, “Yes, I feel badly about that, but I’m going to let it go and enjoy myself anyway, because time is short and this moment only lasts right now. There’ll be time enough to feel guilty next week!”

6. “No” is not a four-letter word. We’re all human (yes, you too!), and we humans get ourselves into more trouble than you know because we simply don’t know when to say, “Thank you, but no.” I suspect it’s tied closely to guilt (see Tip 5), but at some point, the sooner we learn that it’s okay to say No, the sooner we’ll feel less stress and anxiety. You can’t do everything, every year. Choose carefully, schedule well (Tip 4), and then say No to the rest and you’ll rest better at night.

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