HAD is a term I coined as Holiday Affective Disorder, when you feel down, moody, and irritable anticipating and experiencing the holiday season. I have had a difficult time, (some years worse than others) around the holidays for most of my adult life as it represents a deep sense of loss for me, the biggest one being not having children.
What makes HAD especially challenging is that it feels like everyone else is joyously engaged in the holiday bustle, while I feel dark and empty. This brings on guilt, because of all the gratitude I should feel, and for being irritable with the people I care about the most.
If any of this sounds remotely familiar, the good news is that HAD is not only temporary, it is also treatable. I have been writing on this topic for years, and here are some practices that help me stay resilient during the holidays:
- Get Your Sleep
Sleep is the number one lifestyle behavior that contributes to a resilient brain and it affects everything, including your weight, performance, and mood. This time of year it is the most important thing to keep up, whether you are feeling down or not. Check here for ideas on sleep hygiene.
- Eliminate Your But
Notice how many times you qualify your statements with a but, like I had a great time, but…My day went well but…I finished the project, but…If you leave out the but altogether, you are practicing positive psychology, instead of negativity, which makes you immediately feel better.
- Let Go
There are so many extra activities during the holiday, that involve more—more time, more money, more energy, more food, etc. Be honest with yourself so that you can let go of what doesn’t serve you.
- Keep it Meaningful
This is an excellent opportunity to acknowledge and act on what holds the most meaning for you during the holiday. You can even create your own holiday culture, based on your attitude, values, and goals.
- Be Authentic
It is empowering to be vulnerable enough to speak your truth to those you care most about, so they can acknowledge and support you. If talking with a loved one or close friend is not therapeutic, then seek professional help to navigate the storm.
Whether you have HAD it or not, determine how you can make your holiday most meaningful and sacred. You don’t have to shame yourself or gut it out the next month, waiting for it to be over. Your resilience this holiday depends on how you choose to experience it.