Managing Holiday “Blues”

Although the holidays are supposed to be a time of happiness and good cheer, many people experience seasonal “blues” or ‘Holiday Depression’. The holiday season is a time full of parties and family gatherings, but for many people, it is also a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past “failures” and anxiety about an uncertain future.

“Holiday Depression” can be caused by many factors including increased stress and fatigue due to unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, busy schedules, and the inability to be with one’s family. The increased demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, and house guests also contribute to these feelings of tension. Even people who do not become depressed can develop other stress reactions during the holidays such as headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping.

Although many become depressed during the holiday season, even more respond to the excessive stress and anxiety once the holidays have passed. This post-holiday let down after January 1 can be the result of emotional disappointments experienced during the preceding months as well as the physical reactions caused by excess fatigue and stress.

Below are several possible sources of holiday stress with some strategies to help individuals cope with holiday “blues”:

  • Keep holiday expectations manageable. Organize and prioritize your time so that you are not overwhelmed and be realistic about what you can accomplish. Say “no” when you need to say “no.”
  • Acknowledge all the feelings. Just because the holidays are supposed to be a happy time, it does not mean that you should suppress other feelings. Allow all your feelings to be present, even if you choose not to express them. Find a health outlet for your feelings.
  • Let go of the past. Try to accept that each year is different. Expecting that the holidays to be like the “good ‘ole days” may be getting in the way of you enjoying the present.
  • Do something for someone else. Volunteer time over the holidays (or any time of the year).
  • Try to find ways to enjoy the holidays without spending a lot of money such as driving/biking around and looking at decorations, baking, or even going sledding. Check your local newspaper for free events around the holidays.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new. Start a new tradition and celebrate the holidays in a way that you have not done before, such as expressing appreciation for others or writing a list of things you’re grateful for. For more ideas, go here.
  • Spend time with people who are supportive and care about you. Set a date to meet a friend. Make new friends or contact someone you have lost touch with.
  • Find time for yourself. Read a book, take a nap, or go for a walk instead of trying to take care of everyone else all of the time. Incorporate some physical activity into your schedule, which will help you maintain a sense of wellbeing and also decrease some of your stress!

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Article based on one produced by the National Mental Health Association
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