Holiday depression peaks. According to a national Mental Health America survey, depression peaks over the Halloween to New Year’s stretch, with holiday stress affecting over half of the population..
There are lots of reasons, of course, including too much activity, limited finances, fatigue, family tensions and unrealistic expectations. Depression can also be created and amped by all those carbs, sugars and starches, in those sparkly punchbowls and platters of holiday goodies.
Being alone and feeling lonely is certainly in the list, but does it have to be?
“We tend to view loneliness as a negative thing, a very unpleasant experience,” says clinical social worker Marguerite Manteau-Rao. Yet there are ways to transform loneliness into something more positive. Remember: being alone doesn't have to mean being lonely.
Loneliness or solitude? Pain and holiday depression only have a chance to creep in when you’re focused on yourself and start bringing comparison and expectation into the picture. For example, comparing yourself to someone else or how it was with Thanksgiving meals in the past can really strain the heart. So, how to cope?
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I like some of Sasha Cagen’s ideas from her Quirkyalone book. She says you can help yourself feel whole by finding an activity you truly enjoy. "Creating your own rituals -- with no one else to accomodate -- can be satisfying and uplifting. What’s most important is celebrating your solitude -- and owning it -- rather than thinking about it and comparing your experiences to others.”
Remember, being alone doesn’t mean being by yourself, either. Think about it. You can be married or in relationship and still feel lonely. One of our biggest illusions is that we are separated from others. In reality, we are all connected and one. To get more in tune with this, try actively practicing some “elemental gratitude,” an ancient practice found in many Native American, Taoist and Buddhist teachings of expressing appreciation for simple, basic elements of life. Watch for more about this in my upcoming Gratitude Intensive article this week on YourTango.
Try finding a beautiful spot and just sitting and drinking in the sounds, smells and beauty that surround you. Getting quiet inside, meditating, contemplating or just reflecting on the true meaning of “giving thanks” and appreciating what is, can help you open your heart and start feeling more gratitude for what you do have, for just being alive.
What would feed and nurture you this holiday? And I’m not talking about food here....
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For some specific suggestions on how to manage the “eat alone” thing on Turkey Day, check out my list of coping options in Thanksgiving for One: 12 Ways to Cope with "Eat Alone" Holidays.