Yes, it’s that time of the year! Everywhere we turn there’s tinsel and decorative lighting, and it’s only the first week of November! You go to the mall, you to the grocery store, or you drive around your neighborhood and there they are! Poinsettias and tinsel everywhere! I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I personally enjoy the holidays, for the most part, but I know it can be a difficult time for some.
The holidays are typically a packaged deal; you may get some stress, anxiety, nostalgia, sadness, and/or depression. There is no denying that the holidays/the end of the year brings up a lot of emotions for us all, but depending on what experiences you have, some situations may be more pressing than others. Before I begin however, the take-home point is that no matter how little/meaningless you think your stressors are, it’s important to recognize them, talk about them, and do things that can help improve mood. Even though the Holiday Blues are temporary, we do not want to ignore them because they may worsen into clinical depression or clinical anxiety.
Why do the holidays bring up these feelings?
- It’s the end of the year- endings bring a lot of mixed emotions (regret, anxiousness, sadness, confusion, etc.)
- There’s a disruption to our routines (we attend holiday parties and festivities, vacation times, etc.)
- We may feel lonely/sad if we aren’t around our loved ones (maybe they live out-of-state or are no longer living)
- We start to feel nostalgic- we start to remember previous experiences with the holidays
- We stress/get anxious about our finances because we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to buy gifts, host parties, decorate our homes, prepare elaborate meals etc.
- We get overwhelmed when we get time off work because we may not necessarily get paid for the time off (when the company closes during the holidays)- our pay check may be less than usual
- Family gatherings can also be stressful for some- people getting into arguments, other family members who may be “dramatic”, others drinking more than they should, etc.
There are many reasons why people feel the way they do during the holidays; this is in no way the ONLY things that influence the Holiday Blues. The important thing is to recognize how you feel, talk to someone about it, and take part in things that can help improve your mood.
Here are a list of ways to help reduce and/or prevent the Holiday Blues:
- Create a list of the accomplishments you’ve done for the day or for the week (this will help to increase mood versus dwelling on the things you haven’t done or have yet to accomplish)
- Create realistic goals that are grounded and logical (i.e. the food you’re going to make, the gifts you’re going to buy, the party you’re going to host, etc.)
- Give yourself a budget for the activities on these days (i.e. budget for Christmas shopping, budget for Thanksgiving dinner, etc.)
- People that have the tendency to feel blue during these last few months of the year should avoid drinking alcoholic beverages (drinking alcohol- a depressant- will only make these individuals feel worse)
- Consult with a medical doctor if you feel more tired than usual, less energy, less motivated, and you’ve stopped engaging in everyday routines (you want to make sure to consult with a medical doctor to rule out any medical conditions).
- Live a healthy lifestyle with a well-balanced diet, frequent exercise, and if possible increase your exposure to the sun (these have been proven to be natural anti-depressants).
- Try to stick to your routines as much as possible. Routine helps to reduce stress and promote comfort. If you can continue to have the same hours of sleep than you did before the holidays, or eat the same type of diet, etc., these are are helpful ways to promote emotion regulation.
- Listen to music that helps to improve your mood (upbeat/”happy” music) and/or find other ways to relax during the holidays.