Is it Okay to Feel Sad Over the Holidays?

The holiday season is often filled with a mixture of feelings. Many of us believe that we are supposed to feel happy and lighthearted this time of year. It may appear that everyone else around us has it “all together” and is having a good time. Could something be wrong if we actually feel sad?

Sadness is actually very common for many during this time of year.

“Listening in” to our sadness may be the beginning of a journey toward healing.  Our emotions (e.g., happiness, anger, sadness, fear, etc.) give us clues to better understand ourselves and navigate the world we inhabit. Our body is telling us that something may need to change so that we can live more fully. There are a number of possibilities that can contribute to feelings of sadness such as unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, fatigue, poor nutrition or physical health, destructive relationship patterns, and even the belief that we need to be perfect.

According to Dr. Heidi, Lepper ,

Sadness must be viewed as a temporary and useful state. It is okay to be sad! It is there to help you learn something important, and that is to solve a problem! When you protect yourself from it, avoid it all together, put it in your pocket, or surround yourself with people trying to “cheer” you up, you just eliminated learning something useful. First, that you have the ability to make solid changes to the loss or failure that warranted the sadness and second, that you have a tool bag to go to to cope until that change takes effect. Again, sadness, like all emotions, is a temporary state, our bodies do not sustain the emotional impact for long, so use it while you have it.”

How can we respond to ourselves when we feel sad? We can create a plan of self-care. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Try not to beat yourself up with how you “should” feel. When we learn that sadness is a normal experience that is common during the holidays, it takes the pressure off of having to be or feel a certain way.
  • A little self-compassion goes a long way. Write out some ideas on how you can be kind to yourself when you feel sad.
  • Establish more realistic goals and expectations. Make a list of all of the extra to-do’s and cross some things off the list.
  • Get some rest. When we skip out on sleep in order to keep up with all of the extra demands, it can increase irritability and impact our ability to think clearly.
  • Make a little time to exercise. A brisk walk or jog can really improve one’s mood and give a little bit more energy to meet the extra demands.
  • Practice gratitude. Noticing just a few blessings every day can actually increase feelings of hopefulness.
  • Find someone supportive and trustworthy to talk honestly and openly about what the sadness means for you.

If you feel sad today, you are not alone. Fuller Life Family Therapy is here to support and encourage anyone on their journey toward a fuller life.

For more ideas on “beating the holiday blues” check out these links:

Contributed by:

Jennifer Christian, M.A., LPC

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