Jewish Journal

Are the holidays putting a damper on you?

by Maya Paley

December 31, 2012 | 2:55 pm

These past few weeks I’ve been getting calls from friends, all women, expressing how sad they are about what they did not accomplish in 2012 and how anxious they are about what awaits them in 2013.

Why are so many women blue during the holidays?

As far as I’m concerned, there is no difference between December 31, 2012 and January 1, 2013. Aside from getting a day off of work and the government’s tax policy making this day significant for donations, the “change” we allude to is imagined. The media and its corporate sponsors have convinced us that this one night each year carries deep significance in our lives. We create new lists of goals: lose weight, move out, move up, find a partner, spend time with family, get more sleep, get a raise, get a new job, take a class, read more, cook organic, and so on. Whatever the goals are, we put an immense amount of pressure on ourselves around this time of year only to ultimately stress out and give up entirely.  We make it to the end of the year, wonder why we did not achieve our goals from last January 1, convince ourselves that we are failures, and spend the holidays being self-deprecating and sad.

There are no easy answers to dealing with sadness whether it’s been going on for a while or it’s a seasonal thing, but knowing that there are other people feeling the same way is one way to put things into perspective, which we often lack when we’re down.

I’m not a psychologist or a social worker, but I do go through ups and downs and I’ve finally figured out what makes me feel better. The first is letting go of the concept of failure. I have to remind myself that we’re all different and we each achieve at our own pace.  Goals are important and helpful and, as someone who works in women’s empowerment, I will never downplay how useful it is to set goals. However, I will say that we need to keep our self-expectations in check and that means setting goals that are doable, and realistic within the time frame we’ve allotted for them.

Also, being around people really helps. For many women, the hardest thing is asking for help and the easiest thing is to give it. Being around others is critical. We are social creatures and we need relationships with others to thrive. I sometimes laugh on my own, but I laugh a hundred times more often when I’m with friends or family. I sometimes exercise on my own, but I do so much more often if someone invites me to a hike or a yoga class. I mostly cry on my own, but when I cry to a friend I usually end up laughing and feeling better by the end of the conversation. I know I need people around and I have had to get over my pride and call people when I need them around.

Did you know that women suffer from depression twice as often as men do?

There are many reasons for this, which we’ll have to delve into in another post, but the main point is that there are many other people feeling the same way you or your friends do. In other words, lets’ not be too hard on ourselves and let’s help ourselves and each other by figuring out what we need to do to make ourselves feel better and by doing it. Small efforts go a long way.

I would love to hear from you on what you do when you’re down or what you advise others to do when they’re down. I wish you all a happy, healthy, and positive 2013!

This blog post is dedicated to my grandfather, Lester Paley, who passed away on December 31, 2010. He taught me to know my limits, but to also make sure I move them up and out from time to time.

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Maya Paley is Director of Legislative and Community Engagement at the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles. The programs she works on include the annual Jewish...

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