Holiday Seasonal Affective Disorder

Holiday Seasonal Affective Disorder for real?? Okay no but you may feel like it’s real! After all the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are having less energy, trouble concentrating, poor sleep, fatigue, greater appetite/weight gain, etc. It sounds like it just might fit for this Holiday Season too! (By the way, I am not making light of SAD, it is a very real disorder that does affect numerous people in the winter months and more so in the Edmonton region.) I am however, wanting to give some insight to dealing with the Holiday Season in a way that allows you to enjoy it.

Firstly, Time Constraints/Fatigue. There are multiple pressures that we each face. Work, school, kids, extended family, finances, friends, concerts, events, and more. There are many things to be done and little time to do them. Sigh. One of the best things to do with time constraints is anchor yourself firmly in reality. What is do-able? What is realistic? Don’t ‘wait and see’ and try to keep yourself overbooked and overwhelmed. Say no. Don’t fill your schedule with every possible event and commitment. Untangle the big essentials and put them in there. Then say no to the things you don’t actually want or need to do (within reason, remember, we are looking at reality for our filtering point). Ask yourself, ‘what is in my best interest?’ Let this be the determining factor as to whether or not you add something into your schedule.

Secondly, Food Excess. With Christmas parties, the holidays, work events and getting together with friends, food is often central to the celebration. This is good! This actually part of normal celebration. The problem isn’t what you eat over the Christmas season, the concern is what do you do with food the rest of the year. Overeating and mindless eating can be a real struggle for some people at this time of year. If you find yourself struggling, don’t beat yourself up. If you notice you are eating far beyond your level of fullness, allow yourself to stop. If that shaming voice kicks in, ‘well, you’ve definitely blown it now so you might as well keep going!’ Umm, no. It isn’t pointless to stop. Be gracious and allow yourself to stop eating. No punishment. You can get back on track with moderate, intuitive eating — that is the correction!

Thirdly, Stress. Stress isn’t bad in and of itself. The way we interpret the stressors is what is important. If you are telling yourself that you can’t handle it or can’t deal with everything, you are actually adding to your stress. Telling yourself repeatedly that you can’t is like hiring a cheerleader from the bowels of hell to kick you in the shins and push you down! Too dramatic?! The word ‘can’t’ is such a demotivating statement. It actually undermines your belief in yourself to be resilient and capable. It also increases anxiety and feelings of distress. A better approach is to tell yourself the truth — “I can do this because I am doing it…even though I hate it!” Or “I can do this because I am doing it — it is just ridiculously hard!”

Perhaps a few of these suggestions will help you fend off Holiday Seasonal Affective Disorder (which by the way is not a real diagnosis!) May you put in some stops and take some time to breathe deeply during this Holiday time. If the holidays are a rough time for you because of things from your past, maybe it’s time to have your first Christmas without that hurt or habit. Choose how you want to navigate the holidays — even if it is with extended family that drives you a little crazy. If you choose to spend time with them rather than viewing yourself as trapped or having no options, you will actually feel a bit better.

If this present Holiday season is a really hard one, hang in there. If there is illness, betrayal, or other hardships, hang in there! You can do this because you are — it’s just extremely difficult and you feel like you can hardly breathe. Keep taking one step at a time. Lean into your friends and loved ones. Hang in there. This too shall pass, perhaps like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

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