A Prescription for Holiday Blues

Focus on the joy, not the toy

MedicineNet Health Feature

In the holiday season's flurry of shopping, gift-giving, parties and celebrations, it's easy for the joy of the season to be lost in heightened anxiety and depression.

With so many families struggling with economic uncertainty this year, the seasonal blues can be threatening. Many have coped with the loss of a job or financial instability in the past year, and that monetary strain is bound to affect gift-buying, party-hosting, and other holiday activities. Focusing on the meaning of the holidays can help ward off depression and anxiety brought on by the season's fiscal demands.

"Keeping perspective on the purpose of the holidays is key," said Waguih William IsHak, M.D., medical director of the Adult Outpatient Psychiatry Service at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "Remember that this is a time to express appreciation, love, and togetherness, and that doesn't have to mean spending the big bucks."

IsHak suggests hand-made holiday cards and gifts, as well as get-togethers at home can be the alternative to lavish presents and parties that sometimes cause emotional as well as financial stress. Buying gifts that put more pressure on your budget probably won't make you happy, and keep in mind that it's most likely not the cost of the gift that is important to the receiver.

Also consider the gifts that often mean the most, but don't cost a dime, IsHak suggests. Spoken or written words can deliver a lot more power at much less cost.

"The season offers many opportunities for joy and celebration," IsHak said. "The challenge is to acknowledge and address the potentially negative aspects of the season beforehand. By being flexible, dealing with the 'here and now,' having a sense of humor, and trying to be as compassionate and forgiving as you can, it is possible to have a happy – and rewarding – holiday season."