Carol Kivler, MS, CSP

Keep the Holiday Blues Away

By DBSA Board Member, Carol Kivler, MS, CSP

Tis the season to be jolly! Or is it? For many people, the holidays are anything but jolly. Mood disorders can turn what is supposed to be an upbeat, joyous time of year into a dreadful period that some would rather skip completely. If you experience dismay thinking about the upcoming holiday season, it may help you to determine the biggest culprits.

Unrealistic expectations

Many people struggle to live up to the glorious images that bombard us from every direction, including television, movie theaters, store windows, magazines and billboards. A mild brainwashing occurs and we hypnotically buy in to the fact that without the perfect decorations, holiday attire, latest recipes, and trendy gift ideas, we just don’t measure up. We set ourselves up for failure, because it is the rare person that can achieve that state of perfection! Limit your exposure to these images and remember that most of them are used to sell products more than to paint a realistic picture. Set up practical holiday goals that fulfill your holiday needs but don’t overwhelm you. Remember “less is more” and those around you won’t remember how wonderful you looked, how great you decorated, or how much you spent…but they will remember how you made them feel.

Financial pressure

If you have had a recent financial setback, it can be especially difficult facing the fact that there is less money to spend on the holiday season. Keep in mind that you are not alone. Many people are in the same boat. The gift of “time” is far more valuable to the average person than a monetary gift, meaning this could turn out to be the most heartfelt holiday you’ve ever experienced. Consider homemade gifts, photographs, meals or poetry. How about giving someone on your list a scalp massage or organizing their kitchen cabinets? These types of gifts are treasured more than your retailers want you to know!

Physical and emotional fatigue

Shopping, wrapping, baking, visiting; not to mention our regular daily activities can absolutely turn holiday joy into dread. Add to the mix all the high calorie, low energy calories we consume over the holidays and it’s no wonder we feel exhausted! Don’t overdo it and repeat after me, “Focus, Delegate, and Let Go.” Focus on a few of the most important aspects of the holiday season, things you just can’t do without. Delegate tasks to family members and friends; it makes them feel valued! Let go of the rest, especially the unrealistic expectations and the need to provide everyone with a picture-perfect holiday. Your good health is the greatest gift you can give anyone.

Strained family dynamics

The holidays seem to focus on the family unit more than anything else. And if the family unit has changed through death, divorce, discord or disease, it can be especially devastating around the holiday. If family issues begin to rise at holiday gatherings, have tension-diffusers ready; a funny video, an interesting game, an article of clothing for everyone to put on (like a goofy hat, or a boa). Consider having everyone bring their sneakers for a group walk after the meal.   

Outdated traditions

Financial situations change, family dynamics change, and trends change. But traditions are an inherited, established pattern, and the fact is, they can be as uncomfortable as an ill-fitting shoe! There is no law against letting go of outdated traditions! Be bold and consider some of these ideas: Take the family to a movie. Visit a nursing home. Go out dancing. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Round up some people who celebrate alone and bring them to your house to mingle. Go to the beach and play football in the sand. Go on a vacation. Visit a city battered by a hurricane and hug people. Leave your environment for a few days. Do whatever it takes to lift your spirits and keep the holiday blues away!  


Carol Kivler, MS, CSPNationally recognized speaker, author of 4 books, trusted advisor to international business executives, Carol Kivler, MS, CSP, CMT is also a passionate advocate for mental health issues. A survivor of four bouts of treatment-resistant depression, she battled this devastating and debilitating mental illness with courage and faith to a full and sustained recovery. During her periods of wellness, Carol received a master’s degree in human resource education, started Kivler Communications and earned her CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) from the National Speakers Association. For the past 18 years, Carol has been living in wellness—proof that recovery is not just possible, it is probable.