11/17/2011 08:40 am ET | Updated Jan 17, 2012

Simple Strategies For The Holiday Blues

If your current favorite mistake is a troubled relationship and the upcoming holiday season looms as something less than heartwarming, you can take comfort in the notion that the fall/winter holiday cycle is meant to increase lightness during the darkest days of the year. Our ancestors knew that survival requires getting through dark times, and participation in seasonal traditions can help you connect with your hidden light.

There is a harvest time in your bio-rhythms that coincides with autumn's catch. Like the yield from the field, not all of it makes it to your table right away. If a break up is in the offing, if it isn't your idea, or even if it is, you may feel out of sorts. Being on your own, or in that transition, may make little or no sense at the moment. Maybe you're committing infidelity or in a rebound relationship that's not quite a good fit either. Know that some experience can't be understood in the short run. Hard times can require reflection to be fully digested. It helps to look at everything that happens as a kind of fuel, sometimes held in reserve for another season. You don't have to figure it all out now -- greater depths of understanding will unfold over time.

Emotional turmoil and break ups are a reminder that you aren't necessarily in control. As Dr. Isaac Berman, Ph.D., puts it, "Being out of control with the need to be in control is a problem."

This is an opportunity to forget your worries for an hour or so and merge with larger organic cycles. Think of rose bushes at pruning time. If you can increase the light that gets your bush to bloom just one more time, you can have a bouquet for your Thanksgiving, Chanukah or your Christmas table. Check out Lewis Perkins's blog on trimming roses candelabra-style to capture the most light here.

Feeling kind of blue? Make sure to take care of yourself. This might mean something as small as taking a walk outdoors each day to be exposed to the benefits of natural light. I find that garden work such as weeding and sweeping can bring a sense of catharsis. The Zen directive for chopping wood and hauling water applies: when you're absorbed in a repetitive rhythmic activity, it's like a moving meditation, at the end of which you see an immediate positive effect. Your surroundings -- outer and inner --seem tidier and well kept.

Feeling left out of certain activities and celebrations because you and your ex are on the outs and socially it's awkward to participate? The truth is you weren't meant to be there. The adventure of "you" is whatever it is, wherever it takes you. If you feel terror, make it your job is to use the fear to point to your next move.

Rather than being on your own, or uncomfortable explaining to others what is going on, try to get away, travel, especially if it's not your year to have the kids. Maybe this is the winter holiday season for you to go to a spiritual retreat or some other sacred space where others congregate. The work of listening to and making sense of your inner game takes place both in isolation and in small groups. Reflection is important, but don't be too much on your own. Make sure you have at least one or two gatherings to attend, as host or guest.

What unfinished business needs to be re-buried to rest in peace once again? How old were you when your parents were your age now? What was going on in their lives and yours? Were they going through relationship struggles at about the same time you are now? Are your kids now the age you were when your parents split up? As Mark Twain said, "History doesn't repeat itself -- at best it sometimes rhymes."

Does the partner you're in conflict with resemble a parent or authority figure, dead or alive? If you're an adult and you still have strong negative emotions about your parents, this is proof positive you've got unfinished business with them.

Lucky you if your parents are still alive. If you've lost touch, look for them. If they've passed away, seek out people who knew them. If possible, find yourself talking to your parent or others openly about re-dressing old hurts to affect healing today. Then, if anyone asks, "So what did you do for the holidays?" you can say, "My parent(s) and I finally healed our differences."

As you move through holidays that roll out like a reliable drum beat in fall and winter, ask yourself repeatedly with every word, mood and thought, what are you unfolding to? What really makes you tick? If you're in a phase of self and career re-invention, also known as an encore career, what do you need for a fresh start? What passion and purpose can also bring you a paycheck?

Holidays can either sync you or sink you. If creative thinking produces ideas that move in diverging directions, there's never a better time than right now to brace yourself and bring it on. When life serves you bitter lemons make basil balsamic lemonade.