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Dr. Bill Austin

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Beating the Holiday Blues

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Professional Columns -
Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin


During the holidays, many of us experience what has been called holiday blues. We find ourselves feeling sad during a time when everyone is supposed to be happier than they ordinarily are.

No doubt the reasons for the blues are not the same for everyone. Each of us has our own reasons for feeling the blues.

Some of the causes of holiday blues are: past losses, unresolved grief, anticipating a significant loss, contrast between then and now, disappointment about now, Seasonal Affective Disorder, contrast between our image of holiday joy and the reality of now, or a sense of increased isolation and loneliness.

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We experience more stress during the holiday season. We find ourselves busier than ever. There are gifts to buy for people who may not need anything. We struggle with the traffic and the parking, as well as the crowds at the stores. There are demands on our time, attention, energy and finances. All these issues can be stressful.

We may experience holiday blues because of our expectations. We want everyone to get along, but some families have strained and broken relationships. Holidays can make us more aware of them and, of course, this can cause sadness.

Just because it is the holidays doesn't mean Scrooge is going to have a miraculous change in the way he relates to us. Another unrealistic expectation is that everything has to be perfect.

What can we do? Briefly, there are a few things we can do to find the holidays more relaxing.

Feel what we feel. We don't have to be happier than we ordinarily are. It would be helpful if we expressed our feelings by talking with a friend or keeping a journal. When feelings are denied or stuffed, they become stronger, but when we take them out into the light of day, they lose their power.

Simplify – talk with the family about downsizing and spending. Talking to our family about downsizing the holidays can feel that we have lost a loved one. We need to talk about ways we plan to take care ourselves by a making a new normal for the holidays.

Next month I will be presenting how to create that new normal.

Dr. Austin has decades of experience dealing with relationships. He charges clients on a sliding scale according to their ability to pay. His first book, Creating Our Safe Place: Articles on Healthy Relationships, was published in 2004. His second book, Keeping It Safe, was published in 2009 and can be purchased through,, and at the Parrish Book Store in Virginia Beach.  He is also a sought-after speaker at meetings and seminars.

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