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Avoiding the Holiday Blues

While the holidays are supposed to be a time of peace, joy, and love – we all too often seem to be angry, stressed, and blue. Why does this happen and how can we avoid it?

Nashville, Ark. – 

The holidays are here! Christmas music can be heard everywhere you go! And there’s decorating, baking, cooking, and shopping, shopping, shopping to be done! While the holidays are supposed to be a time of peace, joy, and love – we all too often seem to be angry, stressed, and blue. Why does this happen and how can we avoid it?

            The primary reason for holiday stress and depression is unrealistic expectations. From the time we are children, we start to build up expectations of what Christmas should be. In the media we see perfect images of family, friends, food, parties, and gifts. We expect the “Norman Rockwell” Christmas.

            What we fail to realize is the media images are only staged scenes. There is nothing wrong with falling a little short of perfection. We really don’t have to keep up with the Jones and our Christmas lights do not have to out-shine every house in our neighborhood.

            To help keep your holiday expectations reasonable, try these ideas this year:

  • Don’t judge the value of a gift by its price tag. The best gifts come from a sincere desire to make a person happy. If you give from the heart, your gift will never be too small.
  • You don’t have to do everything that’s asked of you. Learn to say no if you do not have time to do something. Delegate responsibility to your children and spouse.
  • Share with someone less fortunate. You don’t have to look far to find someone in need.  Start by looking in your neighborhood, church, or community.
  • Remember – your family is a real family, not a TV family. There will still be arguments and rivalries and criticisms among siblings -- even grown ones! You may not be in control of other people’s actions, but you can certainly control your reaction to them. Take this year as an opportunity to learn forgiveness and acceptance. If all else fails, take a time out with a sympathetic listener and vent your frustrations.
  • Remember that things will occasionally go wrong. Your kids will get dirty and make noise. You will forget to buy batteries, thaw the turkey, or take the cookies out of the oven. Planes will be delayed, relatives will get tied up with other responsibilities, and the dog will jump on your favorite party dress with muddy paws. So what?! Learn to accept these inevitable happenings with grace and style and humor.
  • If you can’t be with the one you love because of divorce, military commitments, or finances then find a creative way to make the holiday special. For example, send a special videotaped greeting to a far away relative, or arrange to spend another day together as “Christmas”. Be creative! If you think about what’s really important like love, sharing, and togetherness, you begin to realize December 25 is only one day out 365 that you have to spread peace and good will.

One of the best ways to combat holiday depression is by participating in activities with other people. Visit a nursing home; go to a holiday service at church. It’s much harder to be depressed when you’re doing something worthwhile with people you enjoy.

Don’t feed depression by dwelling on it, but do listen respectfully to your depressed feelings and see if they have an important message for you. Maybe your depression is calling out for a major change in a relationship or in your lifestyle.

To a large degree, the thoughts we choose determine our feelings. Count your blessings, feed yourself spiritually, and strive to maintain an undaunted, positive attitude. You want to be realistic about your situation, but, at the same time, look at what you have rather than what you don’t have.

Seeking help with depression does not mean that you are crazy or that something is wrong with you. It doesn’t mean that you can’t handle your own problems. Getting help when it’s needed is a sign of strength and intelligence, and not of weakness. Successful people know when to seek expert advice. In fact, some very intelligent people battled with depression: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Vincent van Gogh, and Emily Dickinson, to name just a few.

Most depression is relatively minor, but sometimes it can be quite serious and may have its roots in a treatable biochemical imbalance. If you are experiencing extreme or extended bouts of depression, get professional help as soon as possible. Generally speaking, depression responds well to treatment, and usually does so in a fairly short time if treated early.

So, this holiday season, relax and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year so that you can have yourself a holly, jolly Christmas this year! For more information on family issues, check out our website, and click on Arkansas Families. There is a wealth of information on the website, plus the opportunity to sign up for a weekly e-mail tip on self-help, parenting, and/or marriage issues. You may also call the Howard County Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse.

            Let me remind you to check out the Howard County Bake Sale which will be held Friday, December 18 beginning at 9:00 a.m. in front of Western Auto. All proceeds will go to benefit Howard County EHC educational programs here in the county.

Recipe of the Week

            Here is a great holiday recipe that is sure to get you in the Christmas mood. This recipe was shared by Joshua Rodgers, a 4-H member of Teen Leaders and Sharp Shooters. Joshua says this is his favorite holiday recipe.


1 48 oz. pineapple juice

1 gallon Apple cider

6 oz. frozen, undiluted orange juice concentrate

27 Whole cloves

8 cinnamon sticks

            Put all ingredients in a crock pot and simmer. Put leftovers in the refrigerator and heat one cup at a time.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

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