For many, the holiday season is indeed the most wonderful time of the year. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that every one around us feels that way too. Sadly, that isn’t often the case. You may not realize it, but someone you know may be suffering from the holiday blues.
Take a moment to think about those in your life who may be coping with the situations listed below. They may need some help– some may need actual, tangible help coping with the season, and others may need a friend for a pick me up. You may be able to provide some comfort to those who are hurting.
We realized that oftentimes, we need some guidance on not only how to help others but also how to help ourselves. We turned to a professional, Dr. Sanam Hafeez, for some tips about how to handle the holiday blues. She has some excellent advice for us below.
Singing the Holiday Blues?
Not everyone feels it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Whether it’s dealing with loss, getting over an addiction, being new in town, helping children post-divorce or caring for a senior citizen, Dr. Hafeez has suggestions to help make the holidays a bit easier to navigate.
For the newly divorced or widowed
Loss is a sad, life-changing event at any time of the year. However, it tends to be harder when everyone around you is joyful and giddy with holiday cheer. “Don’t be so hard on yourself by trying to minimize your pain,” advises Dr. Hafeez. Allow yourself to grieve – it’s only natural. She also suggests reaching out to family and friends and joining a grief or support group. Surrounding yourself with loved ones or others going through the same experience will help you feel less lonely. To find a grief group in your area: http://www.griefshare.org/find agroup< Dr. Hafeez is an advocate for volunteering. Helping those less fortunate can give you a sense of love and pride, while immersing yourself in the true spirit of the holidays, in the hopes of lifting your own. Lastly, she says to “be good to yourself. Take a long bath, read a good book, get a massage. Do something that you love to do and makes you feel good. Neglecting yourself will only make you feel worse.”
For those who are new in town
Meetup Group is a local community of people. A Meetup Group hosts Meetups, which are face to face meetings that happen in real life between members and organizers. They can range from anything from “a new in town” group to yoga groups, restaurant groups, you name it, there is a “meet up” for every hobby. On the Find a Meetup Group page, you’ll be able to see the location, description, and topics of Meetup Groups. You can also browse individual Meetups within all the groups in your area.
Seasonal Affect Disorder
A light box mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD. Most people use light boxes for a minimum of 30 minutes each morning.
You can buy a light box over the counter, or your doctor may recommend a specific light box. Light boxes come in different shapes and sizes and have varied features. They also produce different types and intensities of light. Light boxes are designed to be safe and effective, but they aren’t approved or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it’s important to understand your options.
There’s an App for that. More people commit suicide during the holidays than at any other time of the year. Unfortunately for people who are under the care of a psychologist, it is very likely their treatment will be interrupted over the holidays due to vacationing doctors. Thankfully, there are many excellent apps for Android and Smart Phones. Some top apps are: Health Through Breath, Secret of Happiness, Depression CBT Self Help Guide, NIH Depression Info, and Fitness Builder.
For the caretaker(s) of a senior citizen
Don’t forget that elderly people tire easily and can be vulnerable to over-stimulation. “Limit the number of activities for these people and schedule time for a nap if you are traveling or take them home when they become exhausted,” says Dr. Hafeez. Offer to cook for them at your home or help to cook at theirs. While older people may no longer be self-sufficient in the kitchen, there is no reason why they can’t help. Dr. Hafeez says “including them in the meal preparation is a great way for them to feel involved in the holidays, without putting them in any danger.” And if you are gathering in a place that is unfamiliar, make sure to remove slippery throw rugs and other items that could present a problem to one who has balance problems or difficulty walking.
For the parent dealing with post-divorce children
Dr. Hafeez suggests that, “one parent may just have to be the ‘bigger’ one and give in for the sake of the kids,” when there is a dispute taking place. Whether it’s over the holiday schedule or bedtime after a party, the kids feel the stress. Also, she advises to try to collaborate with your former spouse over presents, so there is no competition over who gives the best gifts. “And never undermine the other parent. If he or she says they aren’t allowed to have something, don’t buy it! Be an adult,” says Dr. Hafeez.
For the recovering alcoholic
Recovering from addiction is hard.Period. But it’s harder when holiday festivities are filled with friends and family drinking everything from eggnog to champagne. “Be prepared for what you may face, before going to a party,” advises Dr. Hafeez. She suggests an answer like “I’m choosing not to drink today,” or “I’ve decided to be the designated driver,” should get people off your back.
Dr. Hafeez, also offers this advice if you are traveling over the holidays. “Traveling often takes you to places where drinking can be encouraged, such as airports, planes and hotel bars.” Prepare yourself ahead of time by reminding yourself over and over that these settings may make you uncomfortable, but you don’t have a drink to make yourself feel more comfortable. If you have to, make yourself a note in your phone and read it to yourself if you’re starting to feel vulnerable.
Remind yourself that next year will be better. Use these tips to help you cope with the holiday blues.
While this year may not be the happiest and easiest of holidays, remind yourself that next year will be better. “Looking forward, not back, is the best way to embrace the future on a positive note,” says Dr. Hafeez.
About Sanam Hafeez Psy.D, New York State Licensed Neuropsychologist and School Psychologist
Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a New York City based Neuro-psychologist and School Psychologist. She is also the founder and director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C.
She is currently a teaching faculty member at Columbia University.
Dr. Hafeez graduated from Queens College, CUNY with a BA in psychology. She then went on to earn her Master of Science in Psychology at Hofstra University. Following that she stayed at Hofstra to receive her Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) She later completed her post-doctoral training in Neuropsychology and Developmental Pediatrics at Coney Island Hospital.
Dr. Hafeez’s provides neuropsychological educational and developmental evaluations in her practice. She also works with children and adults who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, autism, attention and memory problems, trauma and brain injury, abuse, childhood development and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…) In addition, Dr. Hafeez serves as a medical expert and expert witness by providing full evaluations and witness testimony to law firms and courts.
Dr. Hafeez immigrated to the United States from Pakistan when she was twelve years old. She is fluent in English, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi (Pakistani and Indian languages.) She resides in Queens, New York with her husband and twin boys.