Friday, December 15

How To Avoid A Blue Christmas

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For years the public has been hearing that the Christmas Season is a season for “the blues” and that it is inescapable. This horrible monster will be unleashed on people throughout the world and with it comes suicides, depression, sadness, and yes, even poverty from excessive giving.

Adding to the melee, was a very famous, beautiful and soulful song composed by Billy Hayes and Jay Johnson in 1948 but re-recorded by a young man hailing from Tupelo, Mississippi in 1957. When one reads the lyrics and hears the music, one can understand why some people are affected with the “Christmas blues.” The young man’s name was Elvis Presley and the song’s title is Blue Christmas.(1)

The seemingly over exaggerated media cries of Christmas being the saddest time of the year, warrant researching. Yet in the meantime, there remains the truth that some persons do experience some sort of sadness. How then, can this so-called “Christmas blues” be avoided? The answer may surprise the reader – it’s easier than you think.

In order to avoid having the “Christmas blues”, it would benefit persons to first analyze the reason for this of what many experts now believe has been a “myth” perpetrated by the media. Adding to this intentional or non-intentional exaggeration, has been the reporting by a very select, and small group of mental professionals stating facts based on limited tests, trials, and evaluations.

In short, these conclusions have been based upon their own personal experiences with groups of clinical patients coming to them for consultation. There seems to have been virtually no scientific basis for this perpetrating of the legendary Christmas “blues”.

”It’s a mistake to believe that Christmas is dangerous to your mental health,” says John Buckman, vice chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of Virginia and co-author of an article entitled ”Christmas Depression” published over the last holiday season in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Buckman and his co-author, James R. Hillard, assistant professor of psychiatry at Virginia, reviewed the sparse medical literature on Christmas, almost all of it generated in the United States, and found a startling contradiction.(2)

Statistical studies showed no increase of psychopathology or depression around Christmas. The number of suicides; the number of psychiatric hospitalizations; the number of psychiatric emergency room visits; the number of outpatient psychiatric visits; even the number of letters to advice columns in the newspapers – none of these measures of mental health were high in December. In fact, compared against other months, they were all were relatively low.

Rochelle Semmel Albin, a psychologist and writer at The Arbour, a private psychiatric hospital in Boston, also has reviewed the medical literature on Christmas depression. She says she became engrossed with ”the making of a scientific myth” in repeated writings about holiday depression and suicide.

”Journalists are really convinced that the holiday blues exist and clinicians, who deal with a very special group of people, are happy to supply anecdotes,” she said. ”But we really have no evidence for it. There’s been very little research on it.” (3)

It can be a valid statement to say that Christmas, as and other day of the year, is what the individual makes it to be. It can be gay and festive or it can be boring, sad, and nostalgic.

Reasons for a “blue Christmas” can be varied and unrelated to one another, but mostly, it is caused by persons having to conform to what the rest of the world says Christmas is supposed to be and to how one is supposed to respond to it, many psychologist state.

Who am I going to spend the holidays with – family or friends? What parties am I going to give or go to and how many can I do in a week? What gift should I purchase for friends and family? What’s the limit to my spending? These are reasons enough to cause burdens to fall on people when perhaps they would rather spend Christmas alone or with a different group of persons than usual. Generally speaking when people are taken out of their routines, many persons have a normal degree of difficulty in adapting to transitions or changes.

For years people have been pressured to give gifts to those they hardly know because that is what is expected for persons to have to do at this time of the year. However, this year it may be different than most years due to an admitted money shortage: there is a general perception of rising unemployment and no prospect of it letting up. Some people will prefer to stay at home and won’t be traveling. Others may focus more on giving to those needing it the most, instead of giving because of social constraints.

Whatever stress the Christmas holiday brings is not necessarily bad; it may even result in a person’s greater psychological strength. ”I’m afraid we assume that just because something is stressful it is bad,” says Dr. Wright, a California psychologist. ”The fact of the matter is, if we never experienced anything that was bad or a problem, if we never faced anything that challenged us or caused us to look inside ourselves, we would probably be vegetables.”

So what then is the anecdote to the alleged “Christmas blues?” It’s easier to achieve than one thinks. Persons need to simply go back to the beginnings of the first Christmas and give of themselves without expecting anything in return. It means doing things with people who really mean something in one’s life and giving of oneself to others who indeed may not be able to handle the holidays as well as others for various reasons.    

All right, let’s get more specific on how to avoid the Christmas blues, shall we? Even if a person is alone without family, there are others looking for family closeness or “a touch” which that person can very well help meet.  So, let’s get “up close and personal” and beat the Christmas blues, once and for all! Persons who do at least some of the below suggestions will find that having a “blue Christmas” can indeed be avoided most of the time and there is no need to anticipate “the blues” more than at any other time of the year.  Say “bah humbug” to the Christmas blues.

1-Simplify the holiday season and do things with those who really have a meaning in one’s life. 

2-Do things that don’t cost much money such as an old fashion Christmas tree decorating party. It could be in a church, homeless shelter, a convalescent home or hospital. Decorations can be improvised and imagine the great joy which would be created in someone’s heart who has no one or is going through a difficult situation. Make a party where ever you are!

3-Spend time with friends and family “connecting” with them and communicating with them – not only during the holidays but all year long. Plant seeds of friendship. The only way to have friends and make friends is to be one first.

4- Volunteer at hospitals, homeless shelters, veteran’s hospitals, and children’s hospitals. Nursing homes are especially full of residents and patients who have been forgotten by their own families or have been left alone in the world. Bring some cookies or whatever. Bring yourself if nothing else!

5- Take the family and instead of investing in gifts go out and give to those who have nothing. What about an elderly neighbor who has no living family? Why not share a meal with them and spend some time talking. Even if one is volunteering passing out meals, at a homeless shelter or wherever, take a few minutes after the shift ends and talk with the different people. Better yet, volunteer to work someone’s shift so they can spend it as they need.

6- Visiting children at children’s hospitals will help them feel healthy again. Once again, bring the entire family if permitted by the rules. Bring the little children an inexpensive little toy or two for the buddy in the next bed by the wall.  By going to one of the many dollar stores, little inexpensive trinkets can be passed out to the children, not only in hospitals but at homeless shelters, and missions.

7- Avoid hearing sad, depressing stories and songs. Turn off the nightly news.

Keeping one’s mind on others instead of on oneself can very easily help us avoid the Christmas blues of the season, whenever they try to attach themselves to us – and they will. The recommendations continue – especially in helping those in their time of bereavement:

* Be a good listener.

* Provide reassurance.

* Be available – this is especially true immediately after the death of a loved one.

* Help out with errands and other tasks.

* Be patient

* Keep in touch – write letters, send sympathy cards or flowers, and call regularly – “stay connected”.

* Pray – no matter the other person’s religious convictions or not, let them know someone cares enough to pray for him.

Christmas does impose many stresses and conflicts, most researchers agree, this is undeniable . But every stress is more than offset, for most people, by a host of upbeat experiences. (4)

By implementing some of the above recommendations, one can indeed avoid the “Christmas blues.” This year should be a very blue Christmas for this writer. Yet, being so very thankful to have come to Factoidz, especially at this holiday season of the year, I have found a helpful, enthusiastic, and caring literary community here at this site.This is a treasure in itself.

However, here is a final recommendation which may or may not be looked upon with approval. Get back to the true spirit of Christmas – the commemoration of the birth of the Christ Child in Bethlehem, of Judea two thousand years ago.

Our society has become a self-centered, micro-wave, fast-paced, culture which is teetering on the very edge of self-destruction. In order to avoid the “Christmas blues”, this time of year and the rest, get back to the real Reason for the Season. In doing so, one will find that the Blue Christmas has turned into a White Christmas for ever.

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Sources:

(1) Song “Blue Christmas”.  Accessible at: http://washingtonmo.com/christmas/lyric/1004.htm

(2) Dr. Buckman and his co-author, James R. Hillard, assistant professor of psychiatry at Virginia. Article accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/1983/12/24/world/the-holiday-blues-are-overstated-ill-health-experts-find.html

(3)http://www.umm.edu/features/holiday_blues.htm

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