Blue Christmas

A Christmas tradition as I grew up was listening to Elvis, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. I can remember the lip sync concerts my cousins and I would do to ‘entertain’ the adults. Ah…Memories! So much fun! Well this is also the day that my Aunt Pam (really more like my big sister) passed suddenly making quite a different Christmas memory. I know many people can be a little blue during holidays.

Sometimes the holidays are not jolly at all. We are stressed, maybe broke, or just felling lonely! We may find ourselves away from home and loved ones – for the first time ever.  We could be preoccupied with the fact that a special someone will not be around for the holidays. So, today, if you’re feeling blue, you’re not alone – I’ll list a few things to help ease those blues. And if you’re not feeling blue I can appreciate that – I’ll give you a few tips on what not to do.

So you are feeling little blue –

These are tips to help you survive the holidays, we are talking self-preservation…not how to ‘get over it’. Everybody deals with stress and tragedy in their own way and their own time.  If you are felling more than blue, maybe even totally lost in depression, I urge you to speak with someone. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 has someone you can chat with 24 hours a day and numerous online resources.

Take care of yourself – This one we tend to forget, that’s why I list it first. Eat healthy, lots of vegetables healthy fats, moderate proteins and little sweet fruit. Eat healthy amounts…In other words don’t over eat. Drink plenty of water. Lay off the alcohol since it is known to exaggerate feelings of sadness and anxiety. Do not skip your routine exercise, and if you don’t have a regular routine, start something like a walk every day. Take time to meditate, breath and be silent. Research suggests that meditation promotes brain changes that may boost happiness, reduce stress, and make you nicer to others.

Help someone – There is nothing quite spirit lifting as helping someone else. Give a hand to the mom in the check out with two little screaming children by entertaining them. Pick up trash in the neighborhood. Help someone find a job or a place to live. Donate blood. Feed the neighbors cat.   Small acts help give us a sense purpose. Sometimes the little things we can do would be a lifesaving miracle in someone else’s eyes.

Get connected – Plan on connecting with people even if it’s sitting at home calling a long list of people to wish them a Merry Christmas. You will be talking with and interacting.  Bake some cookies and invite someone to share them along with a hot beverage.

Set realistic goals – Many times, with high expectation we set ourselves up for increased anxiety, stress and frustration. Allow yourself time – don’t cook all day, it’s exhausting and stressing. If you are the only cook around, bake and freeze some things days in advance. Better yet, do holidays pot luck style. That way everybody cooks a little and no one person is left slaving away in the kitchen.

Remind yourself what you’re thankful for – that one uncle who always makes family gatherings bearable, getting a week off work, or the promise of a fresh start in the new year – this can help combat that feeling of what is lacking. Gratitude has many redeeming factors, both physically and mentally.

Turn up the music – Studys show music activates parts of the brain that releases dopamine, the natural feel good chemical. It relaxes the body. Reduces anxiety and the stress hormone cortisol.

What not to say to those felling blue –

When someone is in anguish, our instinct is to encourage them to think positive. If you ask anyone who has lost a loved one the most unhelpful” help” came from those who urged them to cheer up and recover.  “Time heals all wounds!” “Everything happens for a reason.” Pressuring people to be happy is a surefire way to make them sad. Feeling bad about feeling bad just makes us feel worse. Right?

Don’t try to empathize with something similar. To the person on chemo you should never say ‘I know how you feel, my cat was vomiting this morning’. Not only did you shift focus towards self, you could come off as a narcissist. When someone is facing tragedy, it is best to just be there and acknowledge.

We try to help by giving advice. Going to the gym to sweat off the grief… or attending the office holiday party and drink some eggnog will not help win custody of the children. Another example of unhelpful help.  Well, here is some unsolicited advice…Don’t give unsolicited advice.  Try saying “I wish I knew what to say, I’m sorry you are going through this, but you will not face it alone.”

Lastly, we often offer “if there is anything I can do”… leaves that person felling like a burden. Instead of offering ‘anything’ just do something. An invite to lunch, home cooked meal delivered to their house, or just show up, call or text… check in and see how they are doing. When you are at a loss for words, best thing you can do is action. Actions speak louder than words.