Five Tips for Fighting the Holiday Blues

Fighting the #holidayblues? Five tips to equip you. via @blestbutstrest

The Holidays Can Hit Like a Freight Train

The verse of the day on my phone app popped up and bopped me upside the head the other day. Psalm 42:11. In fact, it surprised me so much that I had to read it in four different versions and I concluded that I liked them all, but I loved The Message version the most.

While a lot of people write about the Advent and prepare pin-worthy posts about preparing for the holidays, no one seems to say much about the holiday blues. But the blues can strike anyone at any time. They often pounce when sunlight is scarce and it just seems impossible to cram everything into each day.

Hope for the Holidays

I don’t claim to have any counseling credentials—just common sense and first-hand experience of what moderate depression feels like (if you feel suicidal or as if the world would be better off without you, please, march yourself to a phone and call a suicide hotline or call a counselor or a psychiatrist—don’t put it off a second longer—please). But I do know how to battle the blues.

As the confidant of friends working through depression issues (and the accompanying insurance nightmare), I’ve done what I usually do when I feel inadequate and overwhelmed by something I don’t understand—I research and read. I’ve read anecdotal books about depression (such as Get Out of That Pit by Beth Moore and Fully Alive by Ken Davis) as well as more academic tomes such as Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD, and Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengtson.

I’ve discovered that the mind can act as a powerful weapon—either against us (making us depressed), or for us (by changing our thought patterns). Dr. Burns actually cites studies (done by independent researchers) that show that ‘bibliotheraphy’ (self-study of a good book on depression) can be as effective as talk therapy and/or medications (once again, it all depends on a person’s level of depression and the root causes).

Advice From Ancient Experts

Both Dr. Burns and the other authors I’ve read agree that a person can use his or her mind to assist with recovery from depression. The sons of Korah in Psalms 42 and 43 (some people consider the two books to comprise one Psalm) highlight an action plan for the holiday blues.

1. Desire God (Psalm 42:1-3)
2. When you start having negative thoughts (42:4), fix your eyes on God (42:5)—this element is so important it’s repeated three times in the passage.
3. It’s ok to have angry, sad thoughts—but counteract them as soon as possible (42:9-10)
4. List God’s wondrous works to counteract negative thoughts (42:6-8)
5. Praise God (Psalm 43:3-4)

Another way to look at the first line of defense against the holiday blues (and depression in general) is to think of your mind as a library shelf. We have free will to put any books we want on the shelves, and to take them down and read them whenever we want.

What’s On YOUR Bookshelf?

Sometimes, our shelf gets cluttered with books about doubt and fear and all the negative things happening in our lives. Our mind becomes fascinated with these books and stops to read the titles and the pages over and over again. I’ve been known to pull down the book titled Anita Has no Friends and read myself into the dumps. Sometimes, I pull down the book Anita Can’t Teach and worry myself sick from reliving my mistakes. Once I start ‘reading’ those titles, it’s easy to grab Anita Ate too Much and Doesn’t Exercise Enough and This Will be a Horrible Holiday.

When this happens, I find myself with a full-fledged case of the blues. Or, even worse, the blues’ older, meaner sibling, depression. To remedy the situation, I have to clean out my library shelf. I start by grabbing the book that should have center shelf space at all times. Unfortunately, the Bible often gets pushed aside when I’m feeling down. I turn to the Psalms, because I can always relate. The books of John and Luke are also great places to start.

Books Drop to the Floor

As I fix my eyes on God, I find that some of those nasty titles slip off the shelf naturally. After all, my mental bookshelf has no book ends. Sometimes I grab one of the books off the floor and read the titles again—but I have a choice. I can toss them or put them on the end of the shelf. But I don’t allow myself to put them in the middle of the shelf where they grab my attention throughout the day—steps two and three.

Writing new books—ones about the wondrous acts of God—and adding them to the shelf also narrows down the space for negative books—step four. As I do this, I discover more and more titles popping up on my shelf—things like my 1000 Gifts journal, where I praise God for both the mighty and the mundane. That’s the fifth step.

Know that you are not alone. Millions of people have bookshelf problems—but the Bible has an answer for that! Choose what books you want to read today—it’s all part of “…fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ” (2 Cor 10:5 MSG).

So don’t holster your weapon when the holiday blues come a stalking you. 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from 2016!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • So much insight & wisdom in this post for those who struggle with depression this time of year. May we be mindful to keep them in prayer as this can truly be such a difficult time of year for many. Thank you for this reminder!
    Joanne Viola recently posted…Worship With HopeMy Profile

    • And what a great idea to life up those who we know struggle with depression or who have extra-heavy burdens to bear during the holidays!

  • Anita, you’ve written such a wise and practical post. I love that library book analogy. I read lots of books like you do, friend! I do tend to get holiday blues, but mostly between Christmas and New Year’s. Kind of a holiday let-down. I love your simple 5 steps from Psalm 45. I’m going to keep that in mind!
    Betsy recently posted…Our Dearest Love Letter and Greatest TreasureMy Profile

    • :). I’m glad you find it helpful! You’re right, the week in between the two events can especially wear us down. I’ll be checking back to read my own advice ;).

  • ‘Anita Has no Friends’ and ‘Anita Can’t Teach’

    Wow, friend. This whole book thing is so spot on … I’ve never thought of it that way. Maybe way too much trash talk in our heart spaces going on, yes?

    How we need the truth of who He says we are sink in somewhere deep. And create a whole new series of titles.

    Love this, friend. What a start to the day!
    Linda@Creekside recently posted…Way-Too-Easy Teddy Bear WreathMy Profile

    • Yep. We can really refine the art of trash-talking to ourselves and drown out the “I love you” messages from God. A sad companion to self-trash talk is trash talking others. I find the less I trash talk myself, the fewer negative things I have to say about others.

  • Timely and excellent information. I will pray that the one who needs this the most will read in and the information will become revelation and life changing. xo
    Susan Shipe recently posted…the 31 days of christmasMy Profile

  • “This overt act awakens a desire for God within me—the first step in fighting the blues” Love this. Love your heart. Praying this message goes out in power today and sets sweet captive hearts free!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Wendy :). And especially thank you for the prayers.

  • Amen! These are some great tips, my friend! I haven’t battled full on depression myself, but of course we all can experience a mild form every once in awhile! I have friends and family who battle hard against the depths of it. Another great tip that seems to really help – and is easily done this time of year, is to help someone else… to give or serve or do something for others and that helps to get your mind off of all the dark and negative thoughts about yourself. Often, it helps to bring in some perspective that we have lost sight of! Happy to be neighbors today over at Jennifers’ place for #TellHisStory!
    ~Karrilee~ recently posted…Let’s Look for Miracles…My Profile

    • We keep bumping into each other all over the place, eh? One of these days, we need to bump into each other in real life ;). I completely agree that helping someone else is also an excellent tip for beating the blues! Thanks for mentioning it!

  • Donne

    What a fantastic analogy! I thought immediately of the great monastic libraries with floor to ceiling books, most shelves accessible only by ladders. The bookshelves of my mind have often been cluttered with far too many of the negative books, and I’ve had to climb my way past them multiple times.

    • Yay for ladders! I just had a wonderful mind picture of you climbing past dusty stacks of bad titles and reaching the ‘good shelf’–I think maybe as we focus more and more on the ‘good shelf’ our library gets smaller and the dusty tomes get hauled away and eventually we don’t even realize that our library has shrunk to a manageable size!

  • Having battled through full blown depression, I can say YES! Ultimately, it was making myself turn to God and cling to him that worked. It’s closing to desire God even when we don’t desire to desire Him.
    susan recently posted…Developing Character in ChildrenMy Profile

    • One of the books I read kept pointing out that feeling follows action (and it might take awhile). We must choose and act on our choice. I’m so glad that you made the choice to cling to God and ‘desire God even when you didn’t want to desire Him.’! Your words make a difference–keep on writing!

  • Anita, such wisdom and truth in your words today! I know I get down this time of year..especially after the holiday rush when winter really sets in and the world slows down inside and out. This truth gives me hope, “Writing new books—ones about the wondrous acts of God—and adding them to the shelf also narrows down the space for negative books.” That is the BEST medicine I can think of for aligning forces against the negative in my life. Love your heart here! <3
    Meredith Bernard recently posted…Because we were made for so much more.My Profile

    • And despite the cold, the dark days and the bad weather, there’s a lot of beauty and things to wonder over during the winter time! Frost patterns on windows, snowflakes, maple syrup, how nature yearns for spring. May your winter season be full of wonder this year!

  • Anita,
    Loved how you described your book titles…and you changed them…yes, our thoughts do make a difference 🙂

    Blessings to you 🙂
    Dolly@Soulstops recently posted…Is there a new way to tell your story? (By Jennifer Camp)My Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by, Dolly! May your year be filled with wonderful titles of God’s love for you :).

  • Anita, this is so relatable and practical. I’m putting this post in my mental toolbox. Thanks for always peeling back the layers on uncomfortable topics for the sake of encouraging and equipping others on the journey. Blessings! (I’m your link up buddy at Hollley’s today. :0) )
    Becky Keife recently posted…When Living Trumps WritingMy Profile

    • It’s good to see you back, Becky! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

  • Anita…as always, such practical and wise council…really great. Especially love the reminder to fix our eyes. Brings to mind the old hymn, “turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Thanks for sharing today, friend. Hugs to you!

  • Confession…I was reading your post and taking notes with my evernote app at the same time! Thank you for the overflowing wealth of insight! I feel like I have many around me that are having a hard time this go-around. Thank you.
    Bethany Boring recently posted…This Christmas: When Believing Seems ImpossibleMy Profile

    • And thank YOU for your kind words of encouragement and support! May we all remember to fix our eyes on Jesus and brush off the blues!

  • Anita, I absolutely love this post. I can so relate to the library shelf metaphor as an avid reader and you are right. We can’t remove the negative without replacing it with something else. I’ve had a bit of the holiday blues myself. Nothing to call the suicide line about, but they’re there nonetheless. You hit me right where I’m at, friend. Thank you. And great book recommendations!
    Abby McDonald recently posted…When You Can’t See the Fruit of Your LaborMy Profile

    • I think that for us book lovers (we also tend to hoard our book collections, too), it may be more difficult to weed out the ‘bad books’–I’m getting much better at it the older I get. Maybe because we live so much of our lives (ok, other people’s lives) in our heads through the pages of the books we love. Does this make any sense?

  • Yep, I do these too. I love your tips Anita! It really is hard to have the blues while praising God and thanking Him for all He has done!
    Sarah Donegan recently posted…I Expect God to ActMy Profile

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  • I love the idea of cataloguing our thoughts, as if they are books on a shelf. I’ll try to keep the very ‘best’ books within reach! Grateful for your good words here, Anita.
    Jennifer recently posted…What a Half-Dozen Kids Teach Us About Being Available for GodMy Profile

    • Thank you for stopping by, Jennifer :). I enjoy your link up and the beautiful words and thoughts you share with us through your blog!