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5 Things You Can Do To Beat the Christmas Blues

Family window shopping for Christmas

The holiday season is a complicated time of year for so many people… We experience such a range of different emotions, from love, joy, gratitude, and peace, to sadness, regret, and  grief. It can be challenging to juggle all of those feelings on top of the lengthy to-do lists and hectic schedules.

In years past, I’ve experienced a lot of romance around Christmas time with my late husband, Larry, and made so many beautiful memories with our family and friends. In recent years, being Larry’s primary caretaker made it more difficult to just relax, enjoy quality time with loved ones, and feel the magic of Christmas… I was always so stressed trying to balance everything for the family- making meals, preparing gifts, keeping up with the housework, spending time with everyone, and taking care of Larry- making sure he was ready for the day, his wounds were clean and wrapped, and he was comfortable.  The stress would often overcome my feelings of joy and peace.

This year, our first holiday season without Larry, is very sad at times and I have been feeling a lot of grief, sometimes when it’s expected and oftentimes when I least expect it. However, I also feel a sense of gratitude and excitement that I hadn’t felt in years for Christmas because my stress has been reduced significantly and I can focus my time on relaxing with the family. On Thursday, I got done with work early and went to the mall. There was wonderful Christmas music playing, it was crowded and that hustle and bustle of the holidays really put a pep in my step. It was a simple but nice way to relax and enjoy the moment.

As with everything, some days are harder than others. This past Saturday, despite having a beloved traditional yearly event with dearest friends to look forward to, I felt a little flat and had to stop myself from crying several times throughout the day. It turned out to be a beautiful day, but afterwards I still felt like spending the rest of my evening on the couch and I allowed myself to feel that way.

I was attributing how I was feeling to missing Larry but it became obvious later in the day that I was actually getting sick. As I lay on the couch or curled up in my bed, there were times I was thinking about how if Larry were here he would be making me tomato soup or rubbing my feet, but the flip side is that he would have also been asking me every few minutes if he could get me anything… it would have been very stressful. The times I was sleeping, I could just sleep, whereas with Larry I would have to fight to keep my eyes open and struggle to stay awake to take care of him. While I certainly didn’t find it enjoyable to be sick, it was a pleasant surprise that I didn’t feel it was difficult to be on my own.

Most people also feel the financial pressure of Christmas, which can bring about an inner conflict between wanting to be generous and giving, and having fear and a feeling of scarcity around money. This stress and worry can certainly rob you of your joy around the holidays.

The holidays can also be stressful because of how many “obligations” there are that demand our time. It often feels like you’re just getting through the checklist.

Regardless of the reasons you may be feeling stressed or down this holiday season, here are five simple things you can do to beat the Christmas blues and get some well-deserved R&R.

1. Set a holiday budget and stick to it.

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but many of us set a budget and without even realizing, we exceed it. I have found that setting multiple budgets can help make things feel more manageable. For example, set a budget for how much you want to spend in general, how much you want to spend on gifts per person, and how much you want to spend on food, drinks, and any small things you may want to buy to make the holiday extra special. If you are asking your children what they want, let them know you have a set budget, so they have to decide which gift is most important to them. Say you are going to be spending around $200 for Christmas per child, ask them what it is they would like to receive the most. To make sure you are sticking to the budget, keep tabs on your bank account or credit card once every day to track your spending… What can seem like a few dollars here and there, adds up very quickly.

2. Be selective with your most precious resource: time. 

This year, decide what your priorities are. If you have young children, you only get so many Christmases where they believe in Santa and get excited to experience the magic. You might feel pressure to visit your mom, dad, in-laws, and a family friend all on Christmas day, but don’t put unnecessary stress on yourself by biting off more than you can chew. You can always visit the next day or the next week, even if it’s not on Christmas day; don’t get stuck on the dates. Rather than going to three places on Christmas day, go to one place on that day and schedule another day or two to visit the rest of your family and friends. If your parents and in-laws get along, have a party all together so you don’t have to run around. For example, before they had their son, my son Scott and his wife Ari suggested we include her parents in our Christmas dinner, which meant we could all be together for a bigger chunk of the day and not have to run around. The added bonus to us is, when your children marry, there’s going to be years of celebrations and getting to know your in-laws' parents, which can add to the joy of being together. If this isn’t plausible for you, then the Sunday before or after Christmas might be a good time to see someone who you can't see on Christmas Day.  Some families will even have a get together in January, focusing on the fact that it’s more important to be together than it is to have a party on the exact date of the holiday.

3. Celebrate the little things.

It’s easy to get caught up in your to-do list and feel like you are just spending your days checking boxes. This year, take a step back and look at things from a new perspective. Turn those mundane tasks into fun, enjoyable activities that you get to do rather than have to do. For example, activities such as tree trimming and gift wrapping can be celebratory, fun events rather than just another task you have to complete. Get the kids together, make it an opportunity to see extended family, decorate the tree and serve some light bites. If you have children in your life, watching the wonderment of Christmas through their eyes can be a salve for the soul, even when you’re struggling, so try spending more time with them.

Some people like to wrap their gifts as they buy them to streamline the process, and if that works for you, keep doing that. Others might set aside a time to wrap most, if not all, gifts at once. This might feel overwhelming and stressful, but if you make it a fun activity, you will feel the stress melt away. For example, I like to put on Christmas music, have a glass of wine, and think about the gratitude I feel for being able to give out all of these gifts. Not only do I have those special people in my life to buy things for, I also have the privilege of being able to buy them gifts. I remember a time when I could not. When you try, you can see blessings in everything. Focusing on gratitude makes us feel more positive. Music taps into our emotions, so play Christmas music that helps you feel uplifted and fun… for me, that’s Harry Connick Jr. Most people love her or hate her, but if you’re the former, then play some Mariah Carey. And who doesn’t want to smile when listening to Madonna’s Santa Baby?

4. Spend less time on stressful traditions.

Most of us have childhood or older traditions that, although we’ve always done them, have lost their magic and create so much stress and overwhelm that initial inspiration for doing them has waned. In the past for myself and many other women, often mothers, I feel compelled to keep up with the tradition of excessive baking, feeling inspired to make handmade gifts, or hosting lots of events, all in the “spirit” of Christmas. We want to make the holidays special for our kids and grandkids and will do just about anything to make that happen. Often, this leads to exhaustion and feelings of being stressed, overwhelmed, and irritable.

I had a client who baked and cooked her way through the holidays beginning two weeks before Thanksgiving. Her belief was that all those cookies, cakes, and pies were how she expressed her love, but in reality, her children didn’t feel loved by these gestures. Instead, they just wanted more time with their mother.  While I’m a fan of cooking and baking and homemade gifts, through the years, I have reevaluated and limited our bigger decorating traditions to a Santa Claus table and decorating the entryway, mantle and the tree. This typically takes me about half a day, whereas my former traditions would take nearly two days. In the end, spending less time on the stuff that was surface level, freed me up for more time with the family. While I’ve never been a great baker, my son Scott and I had a tradition of baking Christmas cookies with my Grandma. For me, it was about the love of my Grandma and being together way more than the cookies. However, I do long for those raisin filled cookies and chocolate gobs. The first year or two after my Grandmother passed, my default was to continue that tradition but I quickly realized it had lost its magic and I was better off buying a couple dozen cookies and spending time with family or doing other things that would better contribute to the family’s holiday experiences.

5. Set realistic expectations for yourself at Christmas.

If you don't enjoy Christmas, or it’s painful, ask yourself if you would be better off to do something else, like take a trip or spend the day quietly by yourself. Don’t expect everything to be Holly Jolly, because that just adds more unnecessary pressure. If you’re missing someone because they’ve passed or a relationship has ended, give yourself the time and space to mourn that loss… don’t feel like you have to be happy during this time. Allow yourself to feel how you feel, and prioritize your own self-care. Cope in healthy ways that help you feel better in the long-term, whether that’s through exercise, reading, watching movies, going for walks, meditating, or having a cup of tea or hot cocoa rather than indulging in alcohol. Do your best to treat yourself well during this time. 


Today as we write this, we are smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. A month ago I didn’t know how I would feel or where I would be emotionally during this time. I am happy to report that so far, I am feeling very relaxed, grateful, and excited to have all the kids home again. After talking to the kids, we made the decision to carry on all our traditions, and I feel really good about that because that’s what Larry would have wanted.

Yes, there are times where I miss him or I spontaneously look over at his chair and expect to see him and find myself getting emotional. But most of the time I just smile as I remember the “little things” from years past… how he would be helpful AND silly while I wrapped presents, tease me about all the boxes stacked up at the door, fuss over the outside lights…how he loved the smell of the cinnamon and clove I keep on the stove. It makes me grateful for all the holidays that we had together when Larry was healthy, we were able to enjoy many years of beautiful holiday seasons with the magic of Santa, the drama of battery-operated toys, and the joy of snuggling on the sofa with special foods while watching a movie… Larry was here for all those special years. Today, Scott has his own family, Anso lives on his own (although he’ll be staying with us for Christmas), and Henry and Zane are now college students. If we had the challenge of Alzheimer’s and the loss of Larry while the kids were young, that would have been devastating, so I am eternally grateful for the healthy years. 

Our grandson, Silas, at age two, is just beginning to experience the wonder of Christmas and seeing it through his eyes is magical. The fact that Larry won’t be here for that is tugging at my heartstrings. I sometimes refer to Larry before Alzheimer’s as, “My Larry”, and while obviously I wish that “My Larry” were here, all in all, the family and I are in a much better place emotionally than I would have expected, and for that I am grateful. 

If you are feeling stressed or down, try these five tips for beating the Christmas Blues, and remember that whatever emotions you are experiencing this holiday season, your feelings are valid. Take it easy on yourself and use this time to rest, relax, and recuperate for the upcoming year.

If you are struggling with severe depression, anxiety, or other emotional issues, reach out today at, or call us at 412-400-2085. With proven and trademarked tools, techniques, and solutions, you can overcome emotional issues and live the life you’ve always dreamed of.

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