As the onset of the holiday season approaches, so do all our expectations that come with them. Our society creates an idea that holidays are a time to rejoice and that everyone should partake in a celebration of the season. It is not unusual, however, for many of us to experience negative feelings with the beginning of the holidays, including sadness and loneliness. This condition is nonjudgmental; it can affect all of us. But for individuals living with HIV/AIDS, this time of year can cause even more stress on an already stressful life.
Many factors can contribute to the holiday blues, including increased stress from extra demands placed on a person's life, fatigue and loss of energy from the change in routines with the added responsibilities that come during the holiday season, memories and thoughts of those who are no longer alive, over-commercialization of a season which once was a simpler celebration, a change in diet, unrealistic expectations to meet all the demands placed on an individual during the holidays, and inabilities to be with those you love.
Symptoms of the holiday blues include an inability to think clearly or concentrate, loss of interest in everyday activities, headaches, muscle tension, insomnia or oversleeping, excessive thinking and worrying and anxiety.
While some of these symptoms of the holiday blues may feel intense, very unsettling and can be all-around discouraging, it is important to remember that these feelings are situational. The symptoms are short-lived, appearing around the onset of the holidays and possibly continuing throughout the season, but ending shortly after the first of the year as the winter holidays come to an end.
The most important thing for a person to remember is that these feelings are a normal response to a stress-filled time of the year which may bring many changes to a person's life. However, you can be in charge of managing your holiday blues.
These are the eight simple rules for managing your holiday blues.
- Schedule Time for Yourself
At first, this seems to be simple; however, for many, this is sometimes an impossible feat during our daily lives, not to mention during the holidays. There is much to be said for down time. Taking a break from the pulls of life can help in reconnecting with yourself. During the holidays, take a break from all of the festivities and do something for yourself. Placing this importance on yourself allows you to remain true to what makes you happy. Make decisions that will meet your needs and benefit you by not causing more stress.
- Remember the Importance of a Healthy Diet
Healthy eating during the holidays ... are you serious? Proper nutrition during the holidays can prove to be a challenge for anyone. But just because it is a holiday doesn't give you a reason to not practice caution while celebrating. A healthy diet can help promote a more positive mental well-being. Certain studies have shown that foods higher in fat and sugar tend to cause an individual's body to feel down, a low-energy level that has the potential to be interpreted as feeling mentally depressed. This isn't to mean that one must stay away from foods you like or enjoy. Moderation is the key. Having a taste of your favorite foods is great, but complement that with foods that are good for you. Finding a balance that works for you allows you to eat what you enjoy while making sure your body has the nutrients it needs for appropriate energy to allow you to stay active during this busy time of the year.
For most of us, exercise is one of the first activities deleted from our schedule when life gets busy. Most of the time, we see exercise as an added benefit we can add to our daily routine if we have time when in fact, it should be seen as a necessity for a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. You might be wondering how to fit this into an already busy schedule. Make it a priority; schedule it into your day just as you would if you were making an appointment.
- Find Your Support Network
The holidays are often filled with memories, and sometimes these thoughts are prevalent because we are no longer celebrating in the same way with the same people for a variety of reasons. Holidays always remind us of the losses in our life and it is natural to have feelings of anger, sadness or confusion. However, you don't have to do this alone. Having a support network of family and friends can help buffer the effects of reliving the losses in our lives. It is important to recognize how we are feeling and reach out to those who care because you don't have to do this alone.
- Fend Off Fatigue
Appropriate amounts of sleep are important for high energy levels, as well as keeping your spirits up. All of us have different sleep levels that we require in order to appropriately function in our day-to-day activities. With the busy times during the holidays, it is important to commit yourself to a regular sleep schedule to ensure a less stressful life.
- Stress Management
Stress is a natural physical and emotional response to events that are perceived by the individual as negative. Stress can negatively impact a person's body, and it is especially important for individuals living with HIV/AIDS to know that stress can affect a person's immune system, leaving them even more vulnerable to disease. Stress management is important for all of us to help fight the negative effects of stress on our bodies. There are several things people can do to release stress from the body: exercise, meditation, deep-breathing exercises, yoga and just separating yourself from the stressful situation.
- Organization Is the Key
As humans, we are creatures of habit and enjoy the structure of systems. During the holidays, it is important to hold on to whatever routines you have established to help buffer the effects of stress when times become busy. We all know when the holidays are coming and that these times require more of our attention. Make a commitment to plan ahead and schedule your time wisely so as to not overextend yourself. This is a great time to begin using a planner or some time of organizational method to help you keep track of your life responsibilities.
- Return to the Simple
Always remember to remain true to yourself and what makes you happy. That is the most important thing to remember when dealing with emotionally difficult times, especially during the holidays. It is always okay to remove yourself from situations that feel overly complex and may overextend your ability to handle everything going on during your life.
Hopefully, after reading these eight simple rules, you have an understanding of ways to help buffer the stressful times that can come with the onset of the holiday season. Just remember, you are normal, and you are having normal responses to an emotionally charged time. However, if for any reason you feel that this extends beyond the holiday times, you can find someone to talk with who can help you through these feelings to better understand what is going on in your life at that time.