The holiday season can bring up a whole host of emotions, and while “happy” is the goal, many of us struggle with overwhelm, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
During this time of year when we are “supposed” to be feeling festive, we can easily be brought to our knees by the darkness and cold, the expectations of party-going and gift-giving, the overspending, over-eating, over-drinking, and the oh-so-human feeling like you don’t fit in the way everyone else does.
Each Winter, we contend with the cold and the dark, which in and of itself can be depressing. I, for one, am less social in the Winter, because once I come home after work I just don’t want to go out again. It feels late and the roads are icy and I just want to put on my sweats and cuddle with my dog. While this is ok to do, we have to balance the need for hibernating in our homes with our need to socialize.
There have been many studies that have documented increased isolation, depression, anxiety, mental and behavioral health disorders, and an increase in suicidal ideation, attempts, and suicide directly from the pandemic. We also need to recognize that even before the pandemic, these same feelings become more of an issue for people during this holiday season. So now we have the job of contending with these feelings that have become more compounded by the pandemic.
Humans are intensely social creatures. Even if you are an introvert or like your alone time, you are inherently social. Most of human history had us living in small tribal communities where we were interdependent. Now, we spend our lives isolated into independent living or living within our smaller immediate families. It is not uncommon for people to go days without any social interaction, especially for those working from home or not working at all.
Social isolation leads to poor health outcomes. In fact, the National Institute on Aging states that prolonged social isolation has the equivalent health risks as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We really do need each other for our health and wellbeing.
Take into account this isolation that is much more pronounced and severe for some people than others. The greatest gift that you could give this holiday season is your own loving kindness.
While the pull to be alone at home in this cold and dark season is strong, do your best to stay connected. Please reach out to your friends, your neighbors, and even to strangers. We all seem so busy all the time, take the time to realize that this is not true for everyone (most people are lonely to some degree!), and extending an invitation can mean the world to someone, and will make you feel better, too! Self-care is another essential tool to use to help you feel better throughout this season. Sadly, the holiday season becomes an excuse for us to eat too much, drink too much, eat all the treats, skip our workouts, and generally let it all go in the name of having fun. In reality, this leaves us feeling quite terrible, and we stumble into the New Year really wanting to do better this time around the sun.
The greatest gift that you could give this holiday season is your own loving kindness.
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