Tis the season to be jolly? ‘Fraid not for some.
As the year comes to a close, despite many saying that 2021 felt like it did not happen at all, it is once again time for Christmas. Festive mood radiates in the atmosphere as streets are adorned with decorations and lights. Unaffected by the pandemic, hordes flock to malls to do their Christmas shopping, decking their own houses with ornaments and stocking up on food supplies for ‘5 unique visitors’ gatherings on various days of December.
As the yuletide joy fills the air, some are unable to participate in the joviality.
Why act like the grinch?
For many, it’s not a matter of choice. Yes, we do know people who scorn at every sound of Silent Night, Holy Night or grimace when Santa starts giving out sweets to the kiddos, but the case in point are ones who slip away into dark alleys of psyche and dwell in solitude.
In fact, festive occasions become trying times for them. It can be a period of painful reflection, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and depression.
Well, there’s a thing aptly named SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). People who live in areas that experience seasonal changes are susceptible to this clinical depression that is known to be linked with changes in light. When winter hits, the reduced amount of sunlight has been known to affect bodily rhythms and induce neurochemical imbalances.
Fortunately for many of us who live in Singapore, our risk of getting heat stroke is higher than contracting SAD. Jokes aside, holiday depression can happen to anyone living under any climate. There is a myriad number of factors that contribute to that.
Party-planners who wish to throw nothing less than the #bestpartyeva may find themselves riled up with anxiety and stress. Scurrying to find appropriate gifts, decorations or simply planning can cause some to pull their hair out. Not to forget, there’s also the financial stress that burns a hole in pockets.
There are some who have unrealistic expectations to how special this this time of year should be. This can lead to disappointment when others do not share the same perception. People are also likely to compare themselves with others during this time – *looks through Instagram* wow she was invited to this party and I was all alone at home that night – he has got such a wholesome family – they are so happy – yadda yadda yadda. These trigger feelings of doubt and sadness: “What’s wrong with me?” “Why don’t I have friends?”
Groups and families gather to partake in merry-making, but some are left behind. The lack of inclusion or social connections can become painfully defined during this season. While others have their social circles to celebrate with, some may not, accentuating feelings of loneliness and causing them to be more withdrawn. With current restrictions in group size, when you are not selected to be part of the fabulous five, it can get potentially depressing.
If you’ve lost someone recently, such festive occasions will tend to remind you of their absence. The keen awareness of them not being in your life during this time is heightened, and returning memories can be painful.
Keeping the blues at bay
How can we keep up with the Christmas spirits and savour the festive moment instead? First and foremost, practise self-care. Be mindful of your diet, maintain a regular sleep pattern and have an exercise regime. Keep those dopamine levels up and you will have your natural mood booster, similar to the effects of an antidepressant. Avoid alcohol, as it worsens a depressed mood.
It is also important to make sure that your expectations of yourself are realistic. Take a break from social media if looking at others’ Instagram stories will just have you engage in self-comparison. Remember that what we see do not reflect reality as it is only a moment in a time of happiness. There could be tons of issues or unhappiness in others’ lives not reflected on these social media platforms. Avoid ruminating on your shortcomings. Those are not helpful. Instead, set manageable goals.
Things do not have to be perfect and take on tasks that you can manage. Practise saying ‘no’. People will understand when there is just too much to handle on your own or if you cannot work overtime. Planning ahead will also help prevent bottlenecks in schedules. Make a shopping list and set days aside for shopping, baking, connecting with friends or other activities. Do not wait till the last minute to buy ingredients you forgot about. It may also be helpful to stick to a healthy budget for gifts, don’t try to buy happiness! Sincerity means a lot more.
There are many enriching ways to spend time if you feel lonely. Volunteering is a very fulfilling experience that allows you to put time into use of helping others. Attending community or faith-based events can also be good ways of staying connected while giving yourself a sense of purpose. There’s also no harm reaching out to make new friends or reconnecting with long-lost ones. Ensure that you choose the right engagements. There are people that are not healthy to be around. Choose to be with around those that you will truly enjoy being with.
Speak to a mental health professional if you need it. If you are plagued with anxiety, unable to get quality sleep and find yourself frequently in the dumps, it could be time to talk to a counsellor or psychiatrist. You will never know when depression is going to go away, even though seasons come and go. A private therapist can help manage your thought processes when you are faced with triggers, such as a festive occasion.
It is completely normal to find yourself not living it up with the joviality during Christmas, and if it’s the season to indulge, there’s no other better thing to indulge in than in self-care. By putting yourself first, you can take control of the holidays and the way it makes you feel.
Known as Nate, I am someone who cannot quit wielding the pen or punching the QWERTY, no matter where life brings me. Writing has always been the most effective conduit for channeling my wanted or unwanted opinions since I was an undergraduate at NUS. Naturally, I used this skill as a means of sustenance after working as a writer and editor for many years until I decided to start a business in music. That did not put a halt to my marriage with the vernacular.
In October 2016, I graduated with my Masters in Visual and Media Anthropology, which is the study of cultures through films and photography, at Freie Universität Berlin. This transitory period of residing in two cities has pushed the boundaries of my creativity and my battles with word count have not ceased.
Now a new mode of writing, the academic one, has been added to my existing smorgasbord of corporate and lifestyle collaterals, articles, advertisements, annual reports and books. At the moment, my learning curve is an uphill journey as I attempt to grasp the camera for stills and motion clips, while I juggle that with developing my love affair with my other mode of expression – electronic music.