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Feeling Less than Merry? You're Not Alone

The holiday blues are common, and often go away once the season ends. Until then, there are ways to cope. (Pixabay)
The holiday blues are common, and often go away once the season ends. Until then, there are ways to cope. (Pixabay)
December 18, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The shopping, decorations, baking and parties during the holiday season can leave some folks feeling more misery than merriment.

Clinical psychologist Amanda Johnson of Newton said the holiday blues are not uncommon, and those who already are experiencing stress and sadness in other areas of their lives are especially vulnerable. She said a lot of life conditions can trigger negative feelings.

"People are either dealing with having to be around family that are very difficult, or not having the family because people passed away; and also, they're under a lot of financial stress,” Johnson said. "And so, a lot people are experiencing anxiety, depression, in a little more severe manner than they normally are."

Johnson recommends putting yourself first, making sure to get plenty of sleep and physical activity. She also suggests examining your priorities, crossing some items off the to-do list and asking others for help.

She said a sure-fire way to shift the focus back to what really matters is taking time to volunteer to help those in need.

Johnson noted there is a difference between the holiday blues, which often are temporary and go away once the season ends, and more serious conditions such as depression, seasonal affective disorder and anxiety disorders. So, look for changes in your behavior.

"When you're either sleeping way too much, not enough, you're becoming very irritable, maybe snapping at family members way more than you normally would, overeating or not having an appetite at all,” she said. "If you notice that your habits are changing a lot, it's probably impacting you more than is healthy."

She also suggested discussing your troubles with a trusted friend or family member, and offering to listen to others who may seem to be struggling with negative feelings, too.

"Even the best intended advice sometimes comes across in the wrong way if people aren't sure what to say,” she observed. "So even offering just to be a listening ear can be the most helpful thing."

If the holiday blues persist, Johnson advises folks to seek out a trained counselor or psychiatrist who can offer strategies to develop healthy behaviors and address emotional issues.

More information and resources are available at APA.org/HelpCenter.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA