Many people experience the holiday blues as the year draws to a close, as the sound of holiday music suggests it’s the “most wonderful time of the year.” This isn’t true for everyone, though – many people end up experiencing a sense of sadness, loneliness, and anxiety.
Here’s what causes the holiday blues, the symptoms, and how you can manage them to have a more enjoyable holiday season.
How do you deal with the holiday blues?
The holiday blues, also known as the winter blues, are feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness that occur during the holiday season. Since the holidays are a time of joy and celebration, it can be difficult to manage them. We may feel even more alone if our feelings don’t line up.
The truth is many people struggle with this. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38% of respondents said their stress levels increase during the holidays. Even more surprising is that just 8% said they felt happier during the holidays.
Holiday and post-holiday blues: what causes them?
You are not alone if you are struggling with the holiday blues. But why is it so common?
Unsurprisingly, a hectic schedule and unrealistic expectations can cause financial stress, anxiety, and exhaustion during the holiday season.
You may miss loved ones who have passed away or be nostalgic for children who have grown up during the holidays.
We are exposed to less sunlight during the changing seasons, causing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This can disrupt sleep patterns and reduce the serotonin we get from the sun’s vitamin D. As a result; holiday stress can feel much worse than it would otherwise.
You may also experience the holiday blues even more intensely if you have a mental health condition. 64% of people living with mental illness claim their conditions worsen during the holidays, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Support during this time of year is especially important for these individuals.
Holiday blues symptoms
Take a look at these common symptoms of the holiday blues when you’re worried about a loved one or feeling down about yourself.
Your holiday season might be affected by the winter blues if you constantly feel on edge. As a result of the holidays, we can worry about the future — for example, “What do I need to accomplish by next year?” Not to mention, there are endless parties and events that can lead to social anxiety.
Feelings of depression
Holiday blues are characterized by a sense of sadness that just won’t leave. You may not want to get out of bed or feel numb even when participating in holiday activities.
So how do you know if it’s holiday depression or something more serious, like clinical depression? Major depression is typically diagnosed based on how long you have symptoms and how much those symptoms impact your daily life. You should consult a behavioral health specialist if you are concerned about your depression.
If you or someone you love is socially isolating, it’s almost certain to be a sign of the holiday blues. No matter how many people reach out, you just don’t want to say yes. You might avoid holiday cheer by declining phone calls, saying no to social invitations, or taking a break from social media.
Overeating and undereating are common during the holidays. Many of us grew up relying on food for comfort, especially festive food like Thanksgiving turkey. The problem is turning to food for relief or distraction. You might temporarily stop thinking about your negative thoughts, but it won’t last long.
Drinking too much alcohol
A high level of drinking is common at office parties and uncomfortable family gatherings. You might use alcohol as a form of escape if you drink excessively multiple nights a week. Drinking cocktails with your friends is part of the fun of the holidays. It’s important to recognize this before it becomes a substance abuse problem.
5 ways to cope with holiday blues
It might not be possible to avoid the holiday blues, whether it’s because of a preexisting mental health condition or tense family dynamics, but you can learn how to manage them.
1. Self-care should be a priority
Self-care is important for managing your energy and emotional state during the holidays, as it is one of the busiest times of the year.
If you schedule a time to focus on yourself at least once a week, whether it’s taking a bubble bath, reading a book, or binge-watching holiday movies alone, you’ll feel more present throughout the rest of the week. To restore some of your energy, you can request PTO or take a vacation.
2. Celebrate the holidays in your own way
By isolating yourself, you’re only going to magnify your symptoms. Pretending that the holidays don’t exist can lead to more frustration and anxiety.
If nothing from your past sparks joy, you can always create some new traditions. It might be wandering through your city’s holiday market with a hot chocolate.
3. Make sure you eat and drink in moderation
People enjoy the holidays because they can eat and drink as much as they want. Unfortunately, too much sugar and alcohol can lead to inflammation, low energy, heartburn, and digestive problems.
Instead, try maintaining a balanced diet. You can focus on cooking healthy foods during the week and avoiding alcohol. However, when it’s time for the holidays, allow yourself to indulge in a few cookies. Eating healthy foods in moderation will boost your mood.
4. Take a walk outside
For many people, winter means shorter days, less sunshine, and seasonal affective disorder. But don’t forget, the winter doesn’t mean there’s no sunshine – it just means you have fewer days to enjoy it.
Get out of the house during the day by rearranging your schedule. Can you take a break from work to go for an afternoon walk? If not, at least make it a priority to get outside on weekends. Taking in the sun during the holiday season will improve your energy levels and relieve the holiday blues.
5. Learn to say “no” more often
Unfortunately, saying “no” during the holidays can be difficult – we might feel guilty for not attending celebrations, not buying enough gifts, or not feeling cheerful during the season.
You might upset some people with your “no,” but if you are miserable because you said “yes” anyway, no one will be happy with you. Nevertheless, when you explain how you’re struggling, your loved ones might be supportive. No matter what, setting boundaries protects your mental health — and that’s what matters most.
During the holidays, how to provide social support.
Supporting struggling friends and family might just be the best holiday gift you can give them this season.
Research on resilience shows that social support is crucial for resilience because it significantly impacts one’s ability to cope with uncertainty in a resilient manner and Enhances mental health and well-being. Maintaining high performance at work requires this.
One of the best ways to manage the holiday blues is to be there for your loved ones. Here are some ways you can help:
Maybe your friend is nervous about the holidays but still wants to celebrate. If you feel that a party is too much for them, you can also arrange a special activity, such as visiting your city’s holiday light displays. If a party is too much, you can organize a relaxed get-together with close friends.
It’s worth asking a follow-up question, “How are you doing?” Being available to support and just listening can profoundly impact another person’s well-being.
You can easily make assumptions about people’s lives and their struggles. Make sure you keep your assumptions in check and make space for your loved ones to share their authentic experiences. Be aware that many people mask their struggles.
Remember that one person’s suffering has no bearing on the real and valid suffering of another. Comparative suffering is dangerous, but empathy cures it.
Get help for the holiday blues and seasonal depression
Sometimes, the holiday blues are too much to handle on your own. Here are a few resources for our extended family to help you get extra support:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a help line (800-950-6264) and various programs to support people affected by mental illness.
- American Psychiatric Association (APA) can help you find a psychiatry professional and get support for your mental health condition.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) offers education and resources to people struggling with these mental illnesses. They also have a directory to help you find a therapist.
- Mental Health America (MHA) offers a large directory of resources. Through national affiliates, they also offer support groups for people struggling with mental health.
Taking the next step,
Especially during the holidays, nothing lasts forever. Admit that this is a challenging time of year, and look forward to more pleasant times ahead.
The blogs presented by TGH Urgent Care in partnership with Fast Track are not a replacement for medical care and are exclusively intended for educational purposes. The content provided here should not be construed as medical guidance. If you are encountering any symptoms, we strongly recommend that you seek an appointment with a duly qualified medical practitioner at our nearest facility.