As the holiday season rapidly approaches, people are preparing to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and, of course, the new year. For many part of the holiday season ritual is gift giving and parties. Bruce Cannon, Director of Emergency Services for the Columbia Mental Health Center, says many persons suffer from short-term depression during the holidays or shortly after the holidays. Cannon says depression may be connected to unrealistic expectations. That may be especially true during these tough economic times. Cannon says persons can head off this depression in themselves and others by being realistic and open about changes in their economic condition.
Cannon says a lot of people will be saying the same thing: “This year I’m just not going to be able to spend the same amount of money that I usually do at Christmas because I’m unemployed right now, or my hours have been cut back and I just don’t have the money to spend.”
Scaling down your expectations for the holidays during this recession can be therapeutic as well as healthy for your budget. Cannon says it can also make for a great teaching moment for parents. “You can talk about it with your children. It sets a good example for them to see that since we’re limited this year we’re going to have to scale things back a little bit. But the holidays can be just as enjoyable as you and your children see that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a nice holiday.”
Cannon says during these tough economic times people can take the time to reinforce the importance of faith and family over giving and receiving material things.
Cannon says a realistic approach to your expectations will help you refrain from overextending your credit that will almost certainly lead to post-holiday depression. “If you spend money you don’t have and build up your debt,” he says, “now you’ve got this debt built up in January and when the bills come due, you have to pay those bills.”
Cannon suggests that a tremendously valuable gift to give not just during the holiday season, but at anytime is the gift of your time. “One night of babysitting for young parents with young children to give them the opportunity to go out to a movie, maybe to dinner, go shopping without the children,” he says. “That’s a great gift. Or you may go visit somebody, perhaps an older relative that lives alone or is in a nursing home.”