The Holiday Blues: How to Recognize and Overcome Them

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… or at least the song says so. There are gifts, ornaments, Christmas trees, and the inevitable Christmas movies to set your expectations high. What’s behind all that pizazz is a lot of stress about making everything perfect, buying the ideal gifts, spending a lot of money, coping with difficult memories, and being lonely or in poor company. The idealized image of a cozy family celebration may not be realistic for many people. Even for those with happy families, the pressure of the holidays can take its toll. 

So, do you have the holiday blues? Let’s talk about how to recognize this condition and overcome it. 

What Are the Holiday Blues?

While the holiday blues don’t present a clinical diagnosis, the specific period when the condition arises and the stressors contributing to its development make it a unique phenomenon. Furthermore, prolonged anxiety and sadness can contribute to long-term depression or make it even harder for those with mental illness. 

The specific stressors related to holiday depression are spending more money than usual, feeling pressured to be in the holiday spirit, and having more social obligations as well as more intense travel plans. Loneliness and loss are also linked to holiday depression.

How to Recognize the Holiday Blues

Identifying the signs of holiday depression requires taking a break, a step back, and a good long look at yourself. Are there some physical changes, such as tired-looking skin or under-eye bags? Even some changes in clothing and self-care might suggest that you are coping with more than you can take right now. 

As for your emotions, ask yourself — how are you feeling? Are you easily irritable, often tearful, or sad? Do you have trouble focusing? Are you tired? Do you feel worthless and unable to maintain social interactions? A decline in the quality of work and lack of productivity as the holidays are approaching could also be signs that this season is not so jolly for you.

How to Overcome the Holiday Blues

It is important to know that the holiday blues are not a definite condition. You can combat this mood by making some simple changes to your lifestyle and working on your coping mechanisms. Here are some tips that could help you.

Get Enough Sleep

No matter how stressed you are, things can get only worse if you don’t get enough sleep. Adults should try to get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. To achieve that, you need to create an optimal sleeping environment. Start with a good mattress that doesn’t have fiberglass to avoid skin irritations, and get a neck-supporting pillow. Clear your room of digital distractions and block the outside light. Ease yourself into sleep with a soothing routine.

Don’t Use Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism

During the holidays, many people turn to alcohol to numb their feelings or get themselves into the right mood for socializing. This can be counterproductive since alcohol can worsen your feelings of depression and anxiety. Excessive alcohol use can harm your sleep too. 

Watch What You’re Eating

Splurging on treats is a holiday tradition we all love and cherish. However, all that festive food is usually fatty, salty, or sugary. These foods can affect your mental health. Try to limit holiday indulgence to family dinners. Make sure to eat healthy meals when you don’t have social events on your schedule.

It’s Okay to Say “No”

From gift-giving to family gatherings, we often hold ourselves to high standards, which can result in feelings of failure. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. You don’t have to attend every gathering or buy a gift for everyone. Saying “no” to protect yourself is the healthiest form of self-care, and people who love and support you will understand that.

Don’t Isolate Yourself

While you don’t have to attend every event, you shouldn’t isolate yourself. The holiday blues will make you want to hide at home and see no one. Surround yourself with a “support team” of friends and family who make you feel pleasant and secure. Share your fears and worries with them and ask them to be there for you.

Set a Budget

The financial strain is a large part of the holiday stress. Don’t feel like you have to go overboard for meal prepping, gifts, and decorations. Set a realistic budget and stick with it. Consider making homemade gifts or organizing a secret Santa so that you have to buy one gift for one family member instead of buying five, six, or seven.

Give Back

Volunteering is a good way to do something good and feel better about yourself. It is also a way to connect with others if you are feeling lonely. Some volunteering ideas you can try are donating, reading to kids, organizing a fundraiser, serving food at a shelter, socializing with people in a nursing home, etc.

Spend Less Time on Social Media

During the holidays, people have more free time, and they spend a lot of it on social media. They post their picture-perfect Christmas trees, family dinners, and families in silly sweaters. This can be overwhelming for someone experiencing the blues. It’s best to just minimize your time on socials altogether and spend it doing more of the things you genuinely enjoy. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

The holiday blues might sound to you like a silly reason to consult a mental health specialist, but it is not. If you can’t cope with the overwhelming feeling of sadness, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A counselor can guide you through this period and help you build your own coping mechanisms.

In Closing

The holidays can be a stressful time for all of us. This year, let’s try to reframe our collective perspective. Take extra care of yourself in this season and do more of the things you enjoy. Try to build some good habits or traditions and cast away those traditions that aren’t serving you. Let’s use this time to remember the things we’re grateful for.

About The Author

Sarah is a life enjoyer, positivity seeker, and a curiosity enthusiast. She is passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle and adores her cats. She is an avid reader who loves to travel when time allows.