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November 16, 2012

When the holidays cause sadness or anxiety

This column echoes some of my earlier thoughts on “holiday syndrome” and the complicated emotions that can arise during holiday season. We should fasten our emotional seat belts before Thanksgiving and keep them fastened until after the New Year.

Our spirits can be lifted while sharing good times with our friends and families during the holidays. But the holidays can also bring us down. Give yourself a break if you feel out of sorts during this time of year. You are not alone. Thanksgiving and Christmas season bring stress, anxiety and depression to millions of people.

Holidays can trigger old wounds. If your wounds feel particularly deep or if you really get hit by a stress, anxiety and depression tsunami, then it might be a good idea to get help. Whatever you do, keep an attitude of friendship and generosity toward yourself. Say no to guilt and self-abuse.

OK, so what’s the big problem with this time of year?

A lot of different things. For example, while we feel happy about celebrating with our family and friends, we can also miss people we have loved and who are now no longer in our lives, whether because of death or because of the crush of life.

Also trouble between us and family members over unresolved wounds and conflicts can flare up with a fresh blood supply during November and December. We can love our parents and siblings but still not have an easy time spending time with them. And if our family life was especially bad, holiday season can remind us of just how bad.

During the holiday season, we can be especially sensitive to our past hurts and wounds, particularly if we haven’t grieved important personal losses. Ditto if we haven’t resolved family conflicts, or if we are having an “anniversary experience” because the conflicts are tied to this time of year.

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